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🔬 Coal Ash & Drinking Water

Water Nerds

Photo by Valeriy Kryukov / Unsplash

Host: Analies Ross-Dyjak | Head of Policy & Perspectives | Hydroviv
Category: 🔬 Research

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:03] “Coal ash is just one of the types of byproducts from […] coal fired power plants and [it] includes a bunch of really nasty contaminants like arsenic, lead, [and] chromium […]. And so there are actually four different types of pollution that come from coal ash, [but] […] only […] coal ash and fly ash […] are really the two types that contaminate drinking water.”

[1:57] “Operators of these coal fired power plants early on understood that coal ash and fly ash were much easier to deal with and manage when actually submerged in water. So they started creating coal ash ponds. […] So similar to […] a retention pond, it's just this dumping ground of all the byproducts from coal fired power plants. So all of those contaminants [are] in this pool of water that's located in some vicinity near a coal fired power plant facility.”

[2:54] “According to Earth Justice, […] 95% of coal ash ponds are actually unlined. So the best […] analogy for this is [that] landfills have extensive lining […] to make sure that sludge and hazardous chemicals [don’t] actually go into surrounding groundwater and soil. So you imagine a landfill that doesn't have that same protective lining. That's essentially what we're talking about with these coal ash ponds […] †[that] were unregulated until 2015.”

[4:55] “These unlined coal ash ponds make […] surrounding groundwater and surface water extremely susceptible to pollution. […] If you live in an area that's near a coal fired power plant and you're on municipal water, […] your utility will offer some level of protection against these contaminants that are found in coal ash ponds. However, that protection only reaches as far as regulated contaminants. So any of the unregulated contaminants […] in these coal ash ponds, […] that municipal treatment facility has no idea what they are [and] they don't test for [them]. And so that just passes through into drinking water.”

[5:57] “If you're on a municipal utility, near a coal ash pond and your water sources are contaminated, you will have some level of protection. However, if you are on a private well, you are completely on your own. So this is really where these coal ash ponds become extremely problematic. Because private well users have no way of really knowing what's actually in there well, because the contaminants from coal ash ponds are either […] proprietary, or they're really, really expensive to test for. So a lot of times, these private while users will just go years and years until it becomes a problem, a family member gets sick or […] a disclosure from the coal fired power plant will let them know.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple (Original Title: "Coal Ash Pollution in Water")
🕰️ 12 min | 🗓️ 05/05/2021
✅ Time saved: 11 min

Additional Links:
Hydroviv Blog: New Legislation Aims to Tackle Coal Ash Pollution

Second Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:49] “According to USGS 41.1% [of US freshwater] is used for thermoelectric power. […] 36.7% is used for farming and irrigation. 12.1% is used for the public supply, which includes drinking water, and 4.6% is used for industrial manufacturing. […] Because the general public is only receiving, you know, about 12% of the total freshwater supply, it's important that we conserve that as much as we can. […] About 70% of the freshwater in the US is surface water, and 30% is groundwater.”

[5:37] “If there is a drought year [and] our surface water sources are being depleted, we're really relying heavily on that 30% of groundwater. […] And [groundwater] is mostly being used in the western states where surface water is obviously limited. […] You have to make sure that the public is getting a fresh water supply, but it's not really sustainable. And it's not really a great way to conserve water resources.”

[7:13] “One of the types of filtration that […] does not contribute to water conservation at all [is] reverse osmosis. […] Reverse osmosis systems actually require 3 to 15 gallons of unfiltered water, […] coming from the municipal system or your private well for one single filtered gallon.”

[8:43] “25 to 45% of bottled water in the US comes from […] municipal sources. […] By 2050, the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight. […] 91% of plastic is not recycled and meaning that the majority of the single use plastic bottles are ending up in landfills or in the environment. It can take over 400 years for one single plastic water bottle to fully decompose in the environment. And then finally, bottled water often follows less strict standards than municipal tap water.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple (Original Title: "Why Sustainability Is Important In Drinking Water")
🕰️ 10 min | 🗓️ 04/23/2021
✅ Time saved: 9 min