Groundwater across the nation is being contaminated by coal burning power plants. A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project compiled data from power stations all over the nation. The report concluded that over 90% of those that burn coal have contaminated groundwater. Power suppliers have been required to report data to the public since March of 2018.
The report includes several power stations in Central Illinois including Edwards, Powerton, Havana, Hennepin, and Duck Creek. With the exception of Havana, all of them tested over the EPA recommended safe amount for lead, arsenic, cobalt, lithium, boron, selenium, sulfate, thallium, or molybdenum.
Carey Panier of the Peoria County Health Department says lead at any level is detrimental to human health. She explained, “In children it can cause developmental problems and brain damage. In adults, excess lead can cause kidney damage.” She added that there is no acceptable amount of lead exposure.
The contamination at power plants around the nation is believed to be from coal ash. Coal ash is a bi-product of burning coal for electricity. Since 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency has regulated the disposal of coal ash at power plants nationwide. Even with regulation, Panier says if you live near a power plant and have well water, you could be in danger of contamination. Typically coal ash is dumped in landfills or impoundments that have gone unregulated until recent years.
The State of Illinois Public Health Department said if you’re worried about the quality of your own water, you can have it tested by a lab. The have a list of labs available for public use here.