Note: When people say “clean coal”, they are referring in part to all the actions taken to limit particle and ash emissions out of the smokestacks. This is done in a variety of ways including washing the coal to remove inorganic ash components, trapping the particles using electrostatic precipitators, etc. What this leaves you with is very toxic coal ash, and very toxic acidified water loaded with the coal wastes it was used to remove.
Now you can pretend that this is somehow cleaner, and it is, to an extent, because you have concentrated the pollution by isolating it and not letting it disperse into the atmosphere. However, if you then dump the waste into unlined landfills, you completely defeat the whole point of the exercise. This very extensive report written by the Clean Air Task Force and Earth Justice looked at streams in Pennsylvania and found a ton of heavy metal pollution.
Coal is neither cheap, nor clean if you have to deal with all the pollution and pay for it, and we did not even have to get to that whole other pollutant, CO2!
Disposing of coal ash in mines is contaminating water supplies throughout Pennsylvania, according to a report released today by the advocacy group Clean Air Task Force and the nonprofit, public interest law firm Earthjustice.
In 10 of 15 mines examined across the state, groundwater and streams near areas where coal ash, or coal combustion waste, was placed had levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and selenium and other pollutants above safe standards.
‘Disposing of coal combustion waste in these mines is threatening water supplies all over the state,’ said Jeff Stant, director of the Pennsylvania Minefill Research Project at the Clean Air Task Force. ‘If the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection won’t act now to stop these dangers, the U.S. EPA should step in to protect the residents of Pennsylvania who live near coal ash mine fills.’
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has refered to the ‘beneficial use’ of coal ash in these active and abandoned mines, claiming that the practice limits the outflow of acidic water from mines.
This study found the opposite was true – in six of the nine permits that used coal ash to treat acid mine drainage, acidity levels increased, leaving the mines more acidic at the end of monitoring.