The Problem with Coal Ash
“We all live in water worlds. The water that courses through our bodies is the water that upholds and nourishes all that is created, every animal of the land, fish of the sea, bird of the air; every flower, every fern and great towering sequoia. Water created the mountains, plains and valleys of the earth; water is yet creating, never ceasing. Water refreshes the soul and feeds the imagination. Water is life. We need to defend and protect it with our lives.” – Anne Rowthorn
Water is a sacred gift given for our life, health, growth, and enjoyment. Yet, right now in Georgia, coal ash looms as a significant threat to our clean water. Coal ash is the waste left after burning coal for electricity, and it contains toxins like arsenic, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals. While the EPA does not classify coal ash as “hazardous,” we know that coal ash exposure contributes to increased risk of countless health problems.
Because of our energy demands, Georgia produces around 6 million tons of coal ash annually and has 29 coal ash ponds, all of which are required to close in the next few years. Out-of-state companies are also eyeing rural Georgia as a dumping place for their coal ash. Most of the ponds are unlined and uncapped and are located adjacent to waterways. In some places, excess water and contaminants in coal ash ponds are drained directly into rivers.
Coal ash needs to be moved to safe, dry, lined landfills away from rivers, wetlands, and aquifer recharge zones. Current regulations allow for coal ash storage in municipal landfills without mandating additional safety measures, thorough monitoring, or public notification. Building on advocacy action taken during the 2017 Legislative session, House Bill 879 was proposed in Georgia’s General Assembly to strengthen safety measures for coal ash disposal. HB879 is making progress through the State Senate, having passed the State House in February. Contacting your state senator about this important legislation and asking them to vote YES would ensure that all Georgians and our water are better protected from this hazardous waste.
We hope the resources shared here will help you, as a person of faith, continue speaking out to your congregation, community leaders, and legislators about the dangers of coal ash.