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Duke study looks at water contamination from coal ash disposal sites

In our previous post, we began looking at the topic of vanadium toxicity, specifically in the context of a recent report that increased levels of the metal have been found at a landfill in South Georgia. As we noted, Georgia does not currently have a vanadium water quality standard, though neighboring North Carolina does.

North Carolina, of course, is home to Duke University, where a study was recently conducted which found that unlined ponds can cause consistent and lasting contamination—including vanadium contamination—to nearby surface water and groundwater. According to the study, the highest concentrations of metals and metalloids, including vanadium, were found in shallow wells near an old coal ash disposal site in the state of Tennessee. 

The researchers who conducted the study say that the findings show that physical removal of coal ash ponds doesn’t completely put to rest the possibility of contamination, since there would still be the issue of subsurface groundwater contamination. The bottom line is that coal ash ponds present a risk to water resources and the local environment.

Coal ash ponds and lagoons are now federally regulated, but there are still concerns about the health of wildlife populations and the safety of public drinking water affected by contamination from old sites and from entities violating federal law. Entities which violate the coal ash rule need to be held accountable for putting the environment and other people at risk.  

Coal ash disposal violations are serious because they can have an extensive impact on the environment and human populations. In our next post, we’ll look briefly at the topic of enforcing the coal ash rule, particularly the role of citizens. 

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