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The Week’s Top Five on Policy Watch

1. Carcinogens, other contaminants found near Roxboro and Sutton coal ash sites as EPA looks to weaken rules

Policy Watch recently reviewed more than 20,000 pages of data for a series of stories about groundwater contamination in wells around Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds: Marshall, Cliffside, Allen, Buck and Dan River. This is the final installment in the series, which covers Sutton and Roxboro in context of the recent announcement of proposed changes to coal ash rules by the EPA.

Tomorrow Policy Watch will examine proposed changes to the state rules and how the EPA’s proposal interacts with them under federal legislation known as the WIIN Act.

The 20 million tons of coal ash stored in two ponds at Duke Energy’s Roxboro plant is not merely sitting there, inert and resting. Rather, the unlined basins are known to leak contamination into the groundwater as well as Sargeants Creek and Hyco Lake. And now it’s known, at least in part, the type and amount of toxic contamination that is seeping into the groundwater within the plant’s boundaries, heightening residents’ anxieties that it could threaten private drinking water wells.

Data recently released by Duke Energy showed concentrations of radioactivity in groundwater at Roxboro as much as 11 times the maximum contaminant level. High concentrations of arsenic, chromium, cobalt and selenium were also detected in some wells near the west and east coal ash ponds. (See bottom of story for data tables.)

And at the Sutton coal ash ponds in Wilmington, contaminant levels were equally disturbing: 461 times the groundwater standard for arsenic, a known carcinogen. And six times state and federal standards for the chemical antimony, which, when consumed in drinking water, can cause stomach ulcers and other health problems.[Read more…]

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