According to a study of 386 U.S. coal-fired power plants conducted by a group of environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, of the 247 facilities in the nation that discharge wastewater, 188 have no limits on the amounts of toxic metals like arsenic, lead and mercury that they are allowed to dump into our public waters.
For the first time in 30 years, the Obama administration and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed updating standards for toxic water pollution from coal plants. Coal plants represent the number one source of toxic water pollution in the country. Exposure to the dangerous metals they dump in our water can lead to birth defects, cancer and even death, according to a report recently released by a coalition of environmental organizations.
But coal companies, their lobbyists and their politician friends are opposing these proposed protections for our waterways. They claim it's about protecting jobs. I grew up in the lower Mon Valley and understand what jobs mean to individuals, families and communities. But just as our society agrees that jobs should not be paid for by the health and safety of the worker, neither should jobs be paid for by the health and welfare of those living downstream, downwind or in future generations.
Efficient, cost-effective technology exists to eliminate these dangerous toxins from power plant wastewater discharges. It is time that we demand that our waterways and water supplies be protected.
KENNETH P. YONEK