Illinois Groundwater Near Coal Plants Severely Contaminated
The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) released a report on U.S. states with coal ash contamination in groundwater. Illinois made the list. Now, this is specifically about groundwater and not all groundwater is drinking water but some groundwater is drinking water.
According to their National Coal and Ash Report,
The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers communities and protects public health and the environment by investigating polluters, holding them accountable under the law, and strengthening public policy.
The report lists what in coal and how it can be harmful to animals, the environment, and people. Some of the contamination includes toxic chemicals like arsenic, carcinogens, radium, and "several metals that can impair children’s developing brains, and multiple chemicals that are toxic to aquatic life."
EIP's report goes on to explain the water under almost every coal plant is contaminated.
91 percent of coal plants have unsafe levels of one or more coal ash constituents in groundwater, even after we set aside contamination that may naturally occurring or coming from other sources.
The groundwater at a majority of coal plants (52 percent) has unsafe levels of arsenic, which is known to cause multiple types of cancer. Arsenic is also a neurotoxin, and, much like lead, can impair the brains of developing children.
The majority of coal plants (60 percent) also have unsafe levels of lithium, a chemical associated with multiple health risks, including neurological damage.
The contamination at a given site typically involves multiple chemicals. The majority of coal plants have unsafe levels of at least four toxic constituents of coal ash.
Illinois did not make the reports top 10 "sites with the worst contamination in the country" but was highlighted twice. Apparently, the EIP found enough data to include Illinois into their report of coal ash contamination. Waukegan, for instance, was listed as a lower-ranked site that "may have severe contamination."
Groundwater at NRG’s Waukegan Station in Waukegan, Illinois has very high levels of arsenic (up to 21 mg/L), boron (up to 35 mg/L), and other pollutants, but the contamination is greatest in wells that are upgradient of the site’s two regulated coal ash ponds. The groundwater is likely being affected by a large, unregulated coal ash landfill that is also upgradient of the ash ponds. But the Waukegan site ranks low in our list because the wells downgradient of the regulated ash ponds tend to show lower levels of contamination than the upgradient wells.
Joilet, Illinois made their report as well.
The Lincoln Stone Quarry in Joliet, Illinois. After boron and possibly other pollutants migrated offsite to residential wells, the owner of the quarry offered to dig deeper wells for affected residents and installed a groundwater pumping system to keep the contamination plume closer to the source.
EIP explains the areas of drinking water affected by possible coal ash contamination are near poverty-ridden residential areas. Because of financial woes, many residents don't have the means to pay for water testing.
These communities frequently confront multiple toxic threats and lack the political clout necessary to garner the attention and assistance of regulatory agencies and elected officials. In short, coal ash creates issues of environmental injustice, where harm falls disproportionately on our nation’s most vulnerable communities.
For the Environmental Integrity Project's full report, click here.