A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice finds that Michigan residents living near unlined coal ash dumps have a 1-in-50 chance of getting cancer from their drinking water.
Unlined ash dumps can be found in Ingham, Marquette, Monroe, and Ottawa counties. Of the seven sites in Michigan, only three have groundwater monitoring. The plants are operated by major energy producers in Michigan, including Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison.
The problem can be traced to the United States reliance on coal-fired power plants. Each year, such plants dispose of nearly 100 million tons of toxic ash in more than 200 landfills and wet ponds. The practice gained national attention in December of 2008 when one such disposal site burst in Kingston, Tennessee. Coal ash can be responsible for pollutants including arsenic, lead, selenium, boron, cadmium, and cobalt.
The analysis is based on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data collected by the government. Under the Bush administration, the data was largely kept from public release as the administration dragged its feet. The report cautions that the actual number of polluted sites may be significantly greater than what the EPA is reporting.