Rep. Johnson Introduces Bill to Protect Constituents from Toxic Coal Ash

By product of producing electricity a noxious material that could be dumped in a landfill near you

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04) today introduced The Coal Ash Landfill Safety Act (CALSA) – H.R. 4827 – to protect citizens from dangerous coal ash that will be disposed in municipal landfills that are not equipped to handle the toxic substance.

“I do not want Georgia residents or anyone in America, regardless of income, neighborhood, race or ethnicity, to be unfairly and unreasonably exposed to toxic chemicals because coal ash is being deposited in inadequately protected facilities near their homes and communities,” Johnson said.

Rep. Johnson announced the introduction of the bill from the House floor. [video link] He recently wrote a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urging them to recommend that more be done to protect citizens who live near such landfills from the potential exposure to the toxic substances found in coal ash.

As coal-fired power plants shut down and the coal ash ponds holding the toxic slurry age and are closed, the need to dispose of this hazardous byproduct, which contains known carcinogens arsenic, lead and mercury, is growing.

Some waste disposal companies have been quietly exploiting a loophole in the new EPA rules regulating coal ash, allowing them to dump toxic coal ash into municipal solid waste landfills. Unlike coal ash ponds or other facilities built specifically for dangerous materials, municipal landfills have no such protections in place, such as proper lining to prevent groundwater seepage.

Rep. Johnson’s bill would force the EPA is re-examine its regulations for municipal landfills under the Solid Waste Disposal Act before these facilities begin accepting tons of coal ash deposits.

“The lack of equivalent protections at municipal landfills to protect air, groundwater and surface water from coal ash contamination threatens the health and environment of communities here in Georgia and throughout the United States where these landfills are receiving coal ash,” Johnson said. “I’m concerned Georgia residents, specifically those in low-income and minority communities, are facing a greater risk of toxic chemical exposure simply because the coal ash is being disposed of in inadequately protected facilities that happen to be in their neighborhood.”

In addition to forcing the EPA to reconsider how it classifies coal ash, Johnson’s bill would amend the municipal solid waste landfill criteria to accomplish the following:

(1)        Protect communities by minimizing coal ash dust originating from the landfill as well as during transportation and other ash management and material handling activities;

(2)        Institute groundwater monitoring and proper clean up requirements; install weekly, monthly, and annual inspection requirements;

(3)        Prohibit placing coal combustion residuals within five feet of groundwater;

(4)        Keep the public informed of all actions by including public posting of monitoring data, corrective action plans, and inspection reports on a publicly accessible website.

Original cosponsors include: John Conyers (MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ), Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL), Stacey Plaskett (VI).

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