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EPA to begin enforcing rule on coal ash waste clean-up

EPA to begin enforcing rule on coal ash waste clean-up
The U.S. Environmental Agency announced Tuesday it will begin enforcing regulations requiring coal-fired power plants to clean up toxic coal ash waste. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 11 (UPI) -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday announced it will begin enforcing a 2015 regulation requiring coal-fired power plants to clean up coal ash waste.

Under the regulations, the EPA said approximately 500 unlined coal ash surface impoundments nationwide will be required to stop receiving waste and begin closing by April.

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"I've seen firsthand how coal ash contamination can hurt people and communities. Coal ash surface impoundments and landfills must operate and close in a manner that protects public health and the environment," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said. "For too long, communities already disproportionately impacted by high levels of pollution have been burdened by improper coal ash disposal. Today's actions will help us protect communities and hold facilities accountable."

Coal ash is toxic waste produced by burning coal at coal-fired power plants and contains contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic that can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water and the air without proper management.

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The EPA said that it has received requests from 57 facilities covered by the regulations to extend the deadline and has so far proposed determinations for four -- one will be conditionally approved for an extension and three will be denied.

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It is also notifying other facilities suspected of improper groundwater monitoring and not posting adequate information that they must comply with federal regulations.

Lisa Evans, senior counsel at Earthjustice, told CNN she was encouraged by the EPA's decision to take action toward enforcing the regulations.

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"Enforcement of the rule's provisions is desperately needed, as coal plants have demonstrated they don't care about polluting water or putting people's health at risk, and they have taken full advantage of the Trump EPA's hands-off policy," Evans said. "The result is nationwide pollution of water at coal plants."

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