Report: ‘Dirty Dozen’ in Illinois Congressional Delegation Blocking Protection of Public Health Against ‘Grim’ Toxic Coal Ash Dump Site Pollution Across State
EIP and PRN "Name Names" of 12 Illinois U.S. Representatives Siding With Coal Industry Over Constituents Impacted by 22 Coal Ash Pollution Sites – 2nd Largest Concentration in the U.S.
CHICAGO, Aug. 17, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Twelve members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation are working to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from cleaning up toxic coal ash dump sites, even though Illinois has the second highest concentration in the U.S. of such pollution problems and in spite of the fact that state officials are doing nothing to clean up the problem, according to a major new report released today by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) and Prairie Rivers Network (PRN).
Titled "Illinois at Risk," the EIP/PRN report concludes: "Coal combustion waste or ‘coal ash’ is a toxic byproduct of electricity generation that is contaminating water supplies and harming communities across Illinois due to the lax regulation by the state in the absence of minimum federal standards. Illinois has the second highest number of contaminated coal ash dump sites in the United States. Data from groundwater sampling conducted by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) at coal ash disposal sites in 2010 is now available, and the results are grim. IEPA found exceedances of health standards for contaminants commonly found in coal ash in groundwater at all 22 sites evaluated in the state. Yet, in spite of years of documentation demonstrating that coal ash is polluting groundwater in communities across the state, Illinois regulators have done little to prevent or correct these ongoing problems."
The report documents 22 total cases and highlights 10 case studies from the Illinois communities of Joliet, Venice, Hutsonville, Coffeen, Industry, Murdock, Vermilion, Coulterville, and Farmersville.
The report finds that, as part of a broader move by some in Congress to roll back clean water protections, 12 members of Illinois’ Congressional delegation – Reps. Peter Roskam (R-6th), Joe Walsh (R-8th), Robert Dold (R-10th), Adam Kinzinger (R-11th), Jerry Costello (D-12th), Judy Biggert (R-13th), Randy Hultgren (R-14th), Donald Manzullo (R-16th), Robert Schilling (R-17th), Aaron Schock (R-18th), and John Shimkus (R-19th) — have voted to strip EPA’s ability to finalize ongoing rulemaking that would provide Illinois residents relief from toxic coal ash pollution.
Commenting on the findings, Traci Barkley, water resources scientist, Prairie Rivers Network, Champaign, IL., said: "When lead was discovered to be hazardous, it was taken out of paint and gasoline. When asbestos was discovered to be dangerous, we stopped using it in our building materials. Now that the scientific evidence is in on coal ash, we know coal ash is toxic and needs to be disposed as such. The elected officials who still think it can be handled with fewer protections than household garbage obviously do not have Illinois residents’ best interests in mind."
Jeff Stant, director, Coal Combustion Waste Initiative, Environmental Integrity Project, Indianapolis, IN., said: "This is a clear case of elected officials siding with a dirty industry at the direct expense of the health of their own constituents. In so doing, these Illinois Congressmen have given a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘Dirty Dozen.’ Even though major coal interests are mostly located outside of Illinois, the pain that would be felt by blocking the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act would be felt most acutely by resident of Illinois. Illinois is a perfect example of why the federal EPA needs to be allowed to do its job when it comes to toxic coal ash pollution."
Matt Wasson, director of programs, Appalachian Voices, Boone, NC, said: "Many of these members of Illinois’ congressional delegation aren’t just trying to block EPA from cleaning up coal ash, but they’re also supporting the greatest assault on the Clean Water Act in its 40 year history."
To read the full report, including a full run down on coal-related voting record of the 12 highlighted Illinois members of Congress, go to http://www.environmentalintegrity.org and http://www.prairierivers.org.
How serious is the toxic coal ash dump site problem in Illinois?
According to the report: "Groundwater was contaminated at all 22 (Illinois) sites evaluated with results showing exceedances of at least one and usually more health standards such as drinking water standards (Maximum Contaminant Levels or MCLs) or health advisories set under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in the groundwater underneath all disposal sites. Monitoring data obtained from IEPA by the Environmental Integrity Project showed that arsenic concentrations were 15 times over the MCL in groundwater under the Meredosia Station’s ash ponds, more than nine times over the MCL under the Dallman Station’s ash ponds, and around five times higher than the MCL in groundwater contaminated by ash ponds at the Pearl and Waukegan Stations. Lead was exceeding the MCL in groundwater under ash ponds at the Joppa and Powerton Stations. Antimony was at least twice the MCL in groundwater contaminated under ash ponds at the Waukegen and Joliet 29 Stations."
The EIP/PRN report notes that, if federally enforceable safeguards were applied to transport, storage and disposal of coal ash, the Illinois problem sites most likely would not have occurred as proper site assessments, tracking and monitoring and pollution controls such as covers, liners and cleanup standards would have been required.
ABOUT THE GROUPS
The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. EIP has three goals: 1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.
Prairie Rivers Network (http://www.prairierivers.org) is Illinois’ statewide leader in river protection, conservation, and restoration. As a registered not-for-profit organization in Illinois, Prairie Rivers Network (PRN) is governed by a dedicated board of directors and funded with the support of passionate members throughout Illinois. Prairie Rivers Network works to protect Illinois’ rivers for people, fish, and wildlife. Much of PRN’s work focuses on how policies such as the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act are used in Illinois–laws intended to protect our waters, our environment, and, ultimately, our health. PRN is the state affiliate of National Wildlife Federation and a member of Earth Share of Illinois.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A streaming audio recording of the news event will be available on the Web as of 3 p.m. CDT/4 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org and http://www.prairierivers.org.
SOURCE Environmental Integrity Project, Washington, D.C., and Prairie Rivers Network, Champaign, IL