Underground injection of coal slurry is a serious threat to public health.
That’s the conclusion of “Underground Injection of Coal Slurry,” a Sludge Safety Project Citizens’ Report being issued today at the Capitol. Some of the results were already made public, in a story by the AP’s Vicki Smith.
I’ve posted the study, as well as a summary report on some water quality data from Wheeling Jesuit University, and a table that shows violations of heavy metals standards at injection sites and residential wells.
The study says:
Billions of gallons [of slurry] have been pumped underground in West Virginia, and poisonous chemicals found in this waste have been found in nearby well water and in hair samples of local citizens.
As coalfield residents voice concerns about contaminated water and health problems, the DEP continued to grant underground injection permits and to excuse companies for violating water standards at injection sites.
Our state can be a model of transforming public health and choose alternative means of processing coal, which have been utilized in West Virginia and are utilized across the globe.
Environmental Protection Secretary Randy Huffman, of course, has missed deadlines for a legislatively-ordered study of coal slurry and the environmental and human health effects of underground injection of this stuff.
But DEP provided some test data to the Sludge Safety Project, and the citizens group had the data analyzed on its own. They found:
The independent scientists found that both their test results and the DEPâ€™s
results showed high metal concentrations in the solid portions of the slurry.
Arsenic, for example was found at 159,000 ppb, nearly 16,000 times the Primary Drinking Water Standard. The solids portion however, while injected underground, does not fall under the regulations of the Safe Drinking Water Act.
The liquid portion of the slurry, which does need to be in compliance with the
Primary Drinking Water Standards, was also in violation. The heavy metals
Antimony, Arsenic, Lead, Barium, Cadmium and Chromium where all found in the samples sometimes in levels over 100 times the legal limit.
The Drinking Water Standards also set secondary standards, which are not
legally binding. Iron, Aluminum, Manganese, Zinc and Copper were found in
levels exceeding the recommended concentrations.
Municipal water and, more immediately, emergency drinking water be
provided to residents near coal slurry sites, including Prenter in Boone County,
Jones Branch in Nicholas County, Mud River and Harts in Lincoln County, and Bridge Fork in Fayette County.
The WV Department of Health and Human Resources initiate the health portion of SCR-15 with a renewed mandate to focus research where the DEP and DHHR have received complaints of black water, bad water, and health problems near where coal slurry is stored.
Require the DHHR to submit a budget and timeline for the health portion of the SCR-15 study.
Cease all settlements for UIC violations and require companies to pay full fines.
These fines may be used to provide drinking water projects to impacted
communities. One company that settled on Clean Water Act violations was
required to pay $20 Million. Full back fines totaled $2.4 Billion. The state didnâ€™t see a cent.
Expand the coal slurry study, SCR-15 to consider the toxicity and leaching
potential of coal slurry impoundments, as ground water and surface waters can be highly interconnected.
WVDEP must employ a minimum of 4 inspectors specifically for enforcement of UIC regulations in regard to coal mines.
Require best practices regarding coal processing, which would only produce dry waste.