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PSR Testifies on Coal Ash as an Environmental Justice Issue
February 9, 2016
PSR's writing and advocacy on coal ash brought us before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, where Environment & Health Director Barbara Gottlieb and PSR member Yolanda Whyte, MD of Georgia were asked to provide testimony.
Why is the Civil Rights Commission looking at coal ash? They're assessing whether the Environmental Protection Agency, which regulated coal ash in 2014, provided adequate protection for low-income and minority communities.
It's a serious concern. Many coal ash disposal sites leak, spill or even deliberately discharge wastewater contaminated with coal ash. That contaminated water can enter ponds, lakes, rivers, and underground aquifers, putting nearby communities at risk if they get their water from wells or eat fish from local waters.
Dust that blows from dry coal ash storage mounds, and from the dried edges of coal ash ponds, creates another pathway by which coal ash harms nearby residents.
Those risks fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, especially in rural areas, where they are more likely to depend on well water, eat fish they catch in local waters and rely on their gardens for food.
Read Gottlieb's testimony on the dangerous toxic metals commonly found in coal ash, the serious harm they can do to the human body, and the pathways to exposure they follow that put local communities at risk.
Read Dr. Whyte's testimony about the threats from coal and coal ash to the predominantly African American patients she treats.
And read excerpts from Pete Harrison, an environmental colleague who testified alongside PSR about coal ash impacts on rivers and lakes in North Carolina.