Wisconsin is home to many toxic coal ash ponds and landfills

CHICAGO – Busloads of concerned Wisconsin residents from La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee are headed to Chicago today, where they will ask the EPA to protect the health of their families by implementing federally enforceable rules to regulate the disposal of toxic coal ash.

“Coal ash contains dozens of toxins and known carcinogens that contaminate our groundwater and threaten the health of our families,” said Katy Walter, clean energy specialist at Clean Wisconsin. “For too long, utilities have had free reign to dispose of this toxic substance unsafely. Today, dozens of Wisconsin residents are demanding that the EPA create strong, federally enforceable rules to regulate the disposal of toxic coal ash.”

Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and many other toxic substances that are associated with cancer, respiratory illness and other serious health threats. These toxins can leach into groundwater when improperly stored; the EPA has identified many wells near coal ash disposal sites in Wisconsin containing levels of toxins that exceed federal health standards.

Residents living near the Oak Creek Power Plant coal ash landfill in Caledonia, for example, have experienced highly contaminated wells and are receiving bottled water from We Energies, despite the utility’s claims that the contamination is unrelated to the nearby coal ash landfill.

“Coal ash endangers the health of families across Wisconsin every day,” said Walter.  “We can no longer afford to risk the health of our residents for coal companies’ convenience.”

The EPA is holding today’s hearings to receive public input on two proposed rules to regulate coal ash. One proposed rule would classify coal ash as a “special waste” subject to hazardous waste management standards and grant the EPA authority to federally monitor and enforce standardized disposal requirements. The other proposed rule would establish suggested guidelines for states, but fall short of requiring states to implement or enforce these guidelines.

“When the safety of our water and the health of our families are at stake, suggested guidelines just aren’t enough,” said Walter. “It’s time for the EPA to regulate and enforce the safe disposal of toxic coal ash.”