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Health Group Announces Intent to Sue EPA Over Toxic Coal Ash

January 18, 2012

Washington, D.C. - January 18, 2012 - Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) joined environmental groups in announcing their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court to force the release of long-awaited federal safeguards for toxic coal ash.

Coal ash, the waste that remains after utilities burn coal to generate electricity, contains some of the world’s deadliest toxic metals, including  arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, cadmium and selenium.  These and other toxicants in coal ash have leaked, leached and spilled into groundwater in states across the country, in some cases contaminating drinking water.

Toxicants in coal ash are (or can be) carcinogenic and can damage the intestines, liver, kidney, lungs, heart, peripheral nervous system and brain.

PSR, along with environmental organizations from affected communities across the country, sent the EPA a notice of intent to sue the Agency under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).   The EPA has procrastinated for nearly two years in producing regulations on coal ash disposal, despite the requirement under RCRA that it act regularly to update safeguards to protect human health from these waste products. 

PSR’s doctors and other members presented testimony at EPA hearings last year and submitted written comments urging the Agency to release a health-protective coal ash rule.  Coal ash is currently deposited in storage ponds, dump sites and abandoned mines across the country.  Well over a hundred storage sites have been documented to endanger human health or the environment. 

“The EPA’s foot-dragging endangers the health of American communities,” said PSR executive director Catherine Thomasson, M.D.  “The law is clear that the EPA must act promptly to protect Americans from this toxic threat.  We hope the EPA will move swiftly to release its safeguards and avoid the necessity of court action.”

“The toxic threat that coal ash poses to human health is severe,” said Maureen McCue, M.D., PhD, president of the PSR chapter in Iowa.  “It’s unthinkable that the EPA allows this toxic stew to get into drinking water.”

ABOUT PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (PSR)

Physicians for Social Responsibility is the largest physician-led organization in the country conveying both the health risks and threats to human survival posed by toxic degradation of the environment, climate change, nuclear weapons, and nuclear reactors.  Founded in 1961 by physicians concerned about the impact of nuclear proliferation, PSR shared the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize with International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War for building public pressure to end the nuclear arms race.  PSR is dedicated to improving national policy formulation and decision-making about security, energy and the environment through the combined efforts of credible, committed health professionals and our active and concerned citizen members.  For more information, go to http://www.psr.org.

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