EPA Proposes Changes To Federal Coal Ash, Wastewater Rules Tuesday, Nov 5 2019 

Federal environmental regulators have released proposed changes to two rules related to the disposal of coal ash and wastewater from coal-fired power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced its third round of changes to its 2015 rule regulating coal ash. Coal ash is one of the largest waste streams in the country and often contains toxic compounds like arsenic, lead, and radium. Dozens of the waste sites dot the Ohio Valley, often along rivers.

The Obama-era regulation requires utilities to conduct groundwater monitoring at ponds and landfills, close leaking ash ponds and clean up polluted groundwater.

Last year, the Trump administration extended the closure deadline through October 2020. Now, it’s proposing to move the deadline two months sooner, in part to address legal challenges surrounding the rule.

The rule also lays out a series of provisions that would allow coal ash sites to remain open longer, including if the nearby coal-fired power plant is scheduled to close. Sites can also request a closure extension if the plant needs time to figure out how to dispose of other waste being placed into coal ash sites.

“At first glance they’re like, ‘oh, it used to be October. Now it’s August — that’s better,’” said Larissa Liebmann, an attorney with Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental watchdog group. “But then they’ve created all these alternatives, which give them this extra time based on various issues.”

The toxic residue from burning coal is a major concern in the Ohio Valley. An analysis by the ReSource and partner station WFPL found nearly every power plant covered under the EPA rules had coal ash waste sites with evidence of contaminated groundwater. At several sites, hazardous compounds are found in groundwater at levels that far exceed federal drinking water standards.

That mirrors data collected on a national level. An analysis of data collected under the 2015 coal ash rule, released this year by environmental groups, found more than 90 percent of the nation’s regulated coal ash repositories are leaking unsafe levels of toxic chemicals into nearby groundwater, including ash sites at more than 30 coal-fired power plants in the Ohio Valley.

Effluent Rule

The EPA is also proposing changes to another 2015 rule that regulates water discharged from power plants, also known as effluent.

The Steam Electric Power Plant Effluent Guidelines Rule set federal limits on the levels of toxic metals in wastewater that can be discharged from power plants. The rule required affected plants to install technology to reduce discharge.

Similar to the coal ash regulation, the wastewater rule was also embroiled in legal challenges.

In its proposed updates, the EPA is relaxing some pollution limits and extending the compliance deadline by two years. In exchange, the agency is promoting its voluntary incentives program.

In a press release, EPA said the new effluent rule would achieve greater pollution reductions than the 2015 rule, at a lower cost.

Environmental groups disagree and argue the rule change will instead expose millions of people to toxic pollution.

“Not only does [EPA Administrator Andrew] Wheeler’s proposal eliminate some of the strongest pollution limits required by the 2015 rule, it carves out new polluter loopholes for the industry,” Jennifer Peters, with Clean Water Action, said in a statement. “Wheeler’s proposal also claims that power plants will voluntarily adopt new, stricter standards, despite the fact that a similar program existed in the 2015 rule, and virtually no coal plants adopted it.”

Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, praised EPA’s efforts to rewrite the effluent rule.

Ohio To Test For Toxic PFAS Chemicals In Drinking Water Friday, Sep 27 2019 

Ohio will begin testing some public and private water systems for the presence of toxic nonstick, fluorinated chemicals, broadly called PFAS.

In a press release issued Friday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced the state’s environmental and public health agencies will analyze drinking water systems located near places with known contamination. That includes near firefighting training sites and some manufacturing facilities. 

water-glassWikimedia Commons

Initial testing shows potential PFAS contamination.

PFAS chemicals were used in flame-retardant foam sprays and in the manufacture of nonstick and stain-resistant products. 

“Right now, we just don’t know if these chemicals have a widespread presence in Ohio’s water supply or not, and I’ve asked the directors of both the Ohio EPA and Ohio Department of Health to develop a plan to find out,” DeWine said. “This is important for both the protection of our natural resources and for public health, which is why we must more fully evaluate the prevalence of PFAS in our water.”

‘Forever Chemicals’

Two per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals — PFOA and PFOS — have been linked to negative health effects. A medical study of more than 70,000 people exposed to PFOA, or C8, dumped by DuPont’s Washington Works plant near Parkersburg, West Virginia, linked exposure to the chemical with multiple health problems from cancer to reduced immune function. 

The so-called “forever chemicals” persist in the environment and have been found in numerous water systems in the Ohio Valley.

Under DeWine’s order, the Ohio EPA and ODH have until Dec. 1 to develop an “action plan.” According to the release, the plan will contain a response strategy for working with communities and private well owners if “high levels” of PFAS chemicals are found. 

Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine, said more details on where testing will occur, what chemicals will be included and what constitutes “high levels” of contamination will be determined by Ohio EPA and ODH. The agencies have also been asked to monitor new research and developments in the science, he said. 

The U.S. EPA is currently evaluating if and how best to regulate PFAS chemicals. The agency has received criticism from some federal lawmakers for not moving fast enough. The agency in 2016 set a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, however a report from the federal government’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), found the chemicals can endanger human health at levels many times lower than that. 

Some states have gone further. New York, New Jersey, and Vermont, among others, have adopted drinking water standards for some PFAS chemicals lower than the EPA. In recognition of the widespread contamination of PFAS chemicals, some states, including Michigan, have conducted statewide testing. 

Sampling of more than 1,700 public water systems in Michigan showed 90 percent of systems were not contaminated. Seven percent had PFAS below 10 ppt and three percent had levels between 10-70 ppt. Two systems exceeded EPA’s 70 ppt health advisory. 

An analysis by the Environmental Working Group suggests up to 110 million Americans could have PFAS in their water. EWG reanalyzed data from private firm Eurofins Eaton Analytical, which conducted water sampling for the EPA’s third Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule, or UCMR. 

While contamination levels measured between 10-90 ppt were reported, the Eurofins data showed 28 percent of the water utilities it tested contained PFAS chemicals at concentrations at or above 5 ppt. The percentage of samples with PFAS detections nearly doubled when the laboratory analyzed down to 2.5 ppt, according to EWG. 

GLI joins business coalition on PFAS regulations Monday, Sep 16 2019 

GLI has joined a coalition of national, state, and local organizations encouraging Congress to take a measured and fully-informed approach to regulating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. These substances are a class of synthetic chemicals that have been in use in the United States since the 1940s and can...

The post GLI joins business coalition on PFAS regulations appeared first on Greater Louisville Inc..