The Georgia Environmental Protection Division is reportedly looking into a landfill in South Georgia recently found to have an increase in levels of vanadium, a potentially toxic metal. Vanadium levels have reportedly been increasing since 2012 at the landfill, though the exact cause isn’t yet known.
Vanadium is a naturally occurring metal and is a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. The metal is permitted by state regulators and doesn’t necessarily pose any threat to the environment when levels are low. Vanadium compounds are still considered toxic, though, and it is tracked by the state. Elevated levels can cause cancer and nerve damage in human populations, and concerns about environmental damage are increasing as well.
One possible source for vanadium is coal ash, millions of pounds of which have been accepted at the landfill. As we’ve previously noted on this blog, the handling and disposal of coal ash is becoming an increasingly important issue in Georgia, particularly since stricter disposal rules have been passed.
Georgia does not currently have a safety limits for vanadium in water established at present, though other states do. Environmentalists and regulators, of course, would like to see a water quality standard, but industry tends to resist such action. North Carolina does have a vanadium water quality standard, and state regulators there routinely monitor vanadium levels alongside other toxic metals.
In our next post, we’ll look at a recent study from Duke University which suggests a possible at the coal ash-vanadium connection and the potentially negative effect on water resources.