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Allowing coal ash to be spread on soil or stored in unlined pits and landfills will raise the risk that several toxic elements, including carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, could leach out of the coal ash and contaminate nearby water supplies across the U.S., according to preliminary findings from a new Duke University study.
Federal rules currently prohibit the uncontrolled disposal of coal ash into the environment, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently proposed amendments to the federal 2015 Coal Ash Rule that will remove this and other safeguards if the ash is dumped or spread for a "beneficial use," such as fill.
Idea - Avner - Vengosh - Professor - Geochemistry
That's a bad idea, said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. He led the new study, which is the first to document the widespread presence of hexavalent chromium in coal ash leachate.
"Our experiments suggest that when coal ash interacts with water—as it will if it is spread on soil or buried in soil without protective liners—there is extensive mobilization of arsenic, selenium, and chromium, in the form of highly toxic hexavalent chromium," Vengosh said.
Experiments - Coal - Chemistry - Induces - PH
"Our experiments also demonstrate that coal ash chemistry induces high pH when the ash interacts with freshwater and this further enhances the mobilization and solubility of elements like hexavalent chromium and arsenic," he said.
Vengosh will present testimony about his unpublished new research and the environmental risks from softening the 2015 coal ash rule at an EPA public hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 2, at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Arlington, Va.
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