Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How Trump made the Hurricane even more Deadly

According to the American Coal Ash Association's Coal Combustion Product Production & Use Survey Report, coal ash is one of the largest types of industrial waste generated in the United States. Coal ash is a toxic substance that remains when coal is burned in power plants. It contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. Without proper management, these contaminants can pollute waterways, ground water, drinking water, and the air.

In December 2008, in response to a major coal ash spill in Tennessee, the Bush EPA began crafting the Coal Ash Rule to require stricter requirements on coal ash disposal. Of course, the Republicans blocked and delayed implementation of new regulations. Then in 2014, a drainage pipe burst at a Duke Energy in Eden, North Carolina, causing the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

Duke Energy was charged with criminal negligence and agreed to pay the largest federal criminal fine in state history, $102 million.

In response, on December 16, 2016, President Obama signed the Water Infrastructure for Improvements to the Nation (WIIN) Act, which authorized state and federal agencies to regulate coal ash disposal. The rule required groundwater testing near coal ash ponds, created standards for the construction of the ponds and protected drinking water. It also gave the EPA broad authority over regulating the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers.

Enter Trump, who campaigned on the promise that he would revise and eliminate regulations and on July 30, 2018, EPA Administrator Pruitt finalized revisions to the rule President Obama had put in place. 

Trump tossed out years of scientific study and public input, stripping out needed protections for the streams that feed drinking water sources for 1 in every 3 Americans. Industry officials are no longer required to monitor the groundwater and the deadline to fix leaking ponds and clean up coal ash spills has been extended from 2018 to 2020 (a presidential election year).

Then last week, only two months after the Trump EPA rolled back regulations intended to stop the pollution of the drinking water of people living in nearby communities, Hurricane Florence dropped more than three feet of rain on North Carolina, breaching a dam at a Wilmington power plant, sending coal ash flowing into the Cape Fear River.

The risk to North Carolina, its rivers and drinking water could have been greatly reduced if coal companies had complied with the Obama-era regulations instead of spending millions on lawyers and lobbyists.

Regulations might have insured that after the hurricane, fish and wildlife would continue to thrive and the residents could drink the water without fear of being poisoned.
 The Dan River, 10 years after the spill

Despite the fact that irrigation water is a prime source of foodborne illnesses, Trump’s order shelved the water-testing rules that would have detected the recent E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce.  The salad greens were distributed nationwide.

In 36 states over 200 people were sickened. Five died and 27 suffered kidney failure. 

Coal Ash Spill
Survivors of America’s largest coal ash spill talk about experiences                                        

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