There may be detrimental effects if wastewater from coal-fired plants is dumped into larger waterways. Mercury, arsenic, bromide, and chloride are just a few examples of environmental toxins that can contaminate drinking water and aquatic environments. These chemicals also cause cancer and other illnesses in humans and make it more difficult for wildlife to breed.
To combat this form of pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) moved on Wednesday to propose the nation’s strictest restrictions to date.
According to EPA Administrator Michael S. Regans, preserving the health and safety of all people is the agency’s top priority. This proposed rule is an ambitious step towards protecting communities from hazardous pollution while giving industry more assurance.
The proposed science-based limitations by the EPA will lessen water pollution from coal-fired power plants and contribute to the achievement of everyone’s access to clean air, clean water, and healthy land.
According to E&E News: Regan also stated to the media that the proposed criteria were the strongest ever.
According to the EPA website: The proposed rule addresses three different kinds of water emissions from coal plants:
- Flue gas desulfurization wastewater is wastewater generated from the scrubbers used to reduce plant air pollution.
- Bottom ash transports water, which comes from plant waste ash.
- Combustion residual leachate, which is the water that seeps out from coal ash landfills.
The contaminants selenium, nickel, iodide, excess nutrients, and total dissolved solids may also be present in these wastewaters. Pollutants from coal-fired power stations have also been linked to malformations in animals and cognitive impairment in young children. They can linger in the environment for a long time.
The rule would establish zero-discharge requirements for wastewater from coal plants’ two main sources, bottom ash, and flue gas, the Environmental Integrity Project informed EcoWatch in an email.
According to the EPA, the recently proposed rule also develops new categories for wastewater that would have been present close to a plant before stricter limits were put in place. Overall, the EPA predicts that it will stop 584 million pounds of water pollution from coal plants from entering the environment annually.
According to the Environmental Integrity Project, the coal power industry is currently mostly functioning under restrictions from the 1980s. The Obama administration proposed stricter criteria in 2015, which the Trump administration rolled back in 2020, making efforts to revise the rules the subject of a political tug-of-war.
The Obama-era regulations have mostly been reinstated by the Biden administration, however, the compliance deadline was moved from 2023 or 2025 to 2029. In total, the administration predicts that 69 to 93 factories will have to incur additional costs in order to adhere to the stricter requirements.
According to CNN, the EPA stated that one factory will likely have to close as a result of the stricter rule, although it did not specify which.
Environmental Integrity Project senior attorney Abel Russ said in a statement emailed to EcoWatch, “The coal industry has profited from lax pollution regulations for decades, and we are happy that the EPA is finally compelling the industry to cease dumping deadly pollutants into our rivers.
All of this is necessary by law and ought to have taken place years ago. Eliminating water contamination is the aim of the Clean Water Act. The EPA must mandate the adoption of technology that can reduce pollution when the industry has access to it.
The proposal will now be available for public comment for 60 days, and a final rule is anticipated in 2024, according to The Hill. The EPA announced that public hearings would take place on April 20 and 25.