EPA to limit toxins discharged into waterways

Michigan’s rivers, lakes and streams are closer to being cleaner and safer as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday long-overdue limits on toxic wastewater discharges.

Coal power plants are, by far, the largest water polluters in the United States.  The wastewater discharge rule governing these plants is more than 30 years out of date and allows heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury to pollute Michigan’s waterways.

“Toxic wastewater discharge carries significant health risks, including harming the brain development of children and increasing the risk for cancer,” said Patrick Geans, Sierra Club regional organizer.  “Our water is part of our identity as Michiganders.  We applaud the EPA for doing the right thing by setting these limits on toxic wastewater discharges.”

The EPA submitted its “Steam Electric Power Generating Category Effluent Limitation Guidelines” to the Federal Register on Friday, which kicks off a period of public comment.

Depending on the final rulemaking, the requirements would annually reduce pollutant discharges by 470 million to 2.62 billion pounds and reduce water use by 50 billion to 103 billion gallons per year in the United States.  Compliance with the proposed rule would be economically achievable, with an associated annual cost between $185 million and $954 million, according to the EPA.

“This toxic wastewater from coal ash ponds and sludge from air pollution control scrubbers is dumped into our waterways and is a hazard for Michigan families and businesses,” said Eric Keller, Clean Water Action campaign organizer.  “Because Michigan’s power plants are located along waterways we must ensure these rivers, lakes and streams are protected from this pollution and the EPA’s proposed rule is important to making that happen.”