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PSR Testifies for Health-protective Coal Ash Disposal

November 18, 2010

Seizing an opportunity to shape a policy with nationwide implications for health, PSR mobilized its network to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to adopt strong, health-protective regulations for the disposal of coal ash.

PSR individual members, board members, chapter leaders and national staff joined forces to support rigorous federal regulation of this toxic waste.  Individual members submitted comments via email, and high-level PSR representatives gave testimony in person at six of the EPA’s eight coal ash hearings across the country.

  • Four PSR national board members testified at hearings in Arlington, VA, Chicago IL and Knoxville TN:  board president Jeff Patterson DO, president-elect John Rachow MD Ph.D., Alan Lockwood MD FAAN, and Steven Gilbert PhD DABT. 
  • PSR chapter leaders and activists also testified:  Roberta Richardson MD in Denver, Peter Orris MD MPH FACP FACOEM in Chicago, Lewis Patrie MD in Charlotte NC, Karen Lewis MD in Dallas, and Maureen McCue MD PhD in Knoxville.
  • Environment & Health deputy director Barb Gottlieb also testified in Arlington and Knoxville.

The public has until 6 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 19 to submit comments.  Click for instructions and for basic FAQ information on coal ash.

PSR was the only national organization to consistently raise the “health voice” at the hearings.

Staff provided PSR members and environmental groups with coal ash fact sheets, and jointly with board member Steven Gilbert and environmental colleague Lisa Evans, wrote a 27-page report, Coal Ash:  The toxic threat to our health and environment.  Lead author Barb Gottlieb met with the EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Solid Waste to brief him on the study’s findings. 

Gottlieb was interviewed on radio in 15 cities, ranging from New York and Miami to coal country locales like Charleston, West Virginia, highlighting the dangers of coal ash for an audience estimated at 249,000 listeners.  She also brought the issue of coal ash to two toxics coalitions:  the Coming Clean Coalition and Alaska Community Action on Toxics. 

Coal ash, the waste material left after utility companies burn coal to generate electricity, contains toxic heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, cadmium, chromium, thallium, and more.  Stored in huge ponds behind earthen dams, dumped in abandoned sand and gravel pits, or used as construction fill, coal ash leaks, leaches and spills into ground and surface waters across the U.S. 

Contaminants in coal ash contribute to cancer, neurological damage, cardiovascular problems and respiratory ailments, among other ills.  Coal ash has poisoned drinking wells in well over 100 communities. 

Coal ash is currently stored in roughly 1,000 disposal sites scattered across 47 states.

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