WASHINGTON, May 3 (UPI) -- Federal environmental regulators, fearing U.S. power plants have shifted from air to water for toxic discharges, are considering tougher rules, analysts said.
The Environmental Protection Agency has collected data indicating that plants in a number of states have discharged wastewater containing high levels of selenium and similar pollutants, The Washington Post reported Saturday. The high level of water pollution may come from "scrubbing" that captures toxins in smokestacks.
The toxins end up as coal ash or sludge. EPA estimates indicate about 130,000 tons of ash and sludge a year are accumulated by power plants, and the agency expects that to grow to 175,000 tons by 2015.
"Scrubbers will help clean our air, but let's make sure that the toxic metals stripped out of coal-plant smokestacks don't end up in our water," said Eric Schaeffer, former head of the EPA enforcement office. "It's crazy not to have limits on toxic discharges this big."