Dangerous Disposals: Keeping Coal Combustion Waste Out of Our Water Supply

Download the fact sheet from the Natural Resources Defence Council

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Each year, America’s coal-fired power plants and industrial facilities produce approximately 130 million tons of coal combustion waste (CCW), the residue left behind when coal is burned. That’s enough waste to fill a train of box cars stretching from Washington, D.C., to Melbourne, Australia. Because CCW contains pollutants like arsenic, mercury, lead, and other toxic substances, its disposal carries many risks. Without proper monitoring and safeguards, disposing of toxic coal combustion waste can pose serious dangers to nearby ground and surface waters—and the people who rely on these sources for safe drinking water.

Given the dependence on coal as a source of energy, the problem of disposing of CCW is one we will face for many years to come. Because CCW contains toxic chemicals such as arsenic and mercury that can cause serious health problems—especially in children—this is a problem we cannot ignore. But just as we have made strides to reduce the danger of air pollution from power plants, we can also act to reduce the danger presented by what is left at the bottom of the stacks.