The New York Times has revealed the results of an extensive study of Clean Water Act enforcement showing systemic breakdowns compliance and enforcement throughout the US, finding that as a result
"An estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways.
Those exposures include carcinogens in the tap water of major American cities and unsafe chemicals in drinking-water wells. Wells, which are not typically regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, are more likely to contain contaminants than municipal water systems."
One source of the carcinogenic and toxic pollutants is coal mining, and the Times story focused on a West Virginia community suffering the effects of severely contaminated water, in particular the Hall-Massey family that lives just outside Charleston, WV:
"Her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater - polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals - caused painful rashes. Many of his brother's teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.
Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system."
As it turns out, coal companies near the community have been washing the coal and then injecting the wastewater and other process wastes into the ground - a whopping 1.9 billion gallons - since 2004.
A subsidiary of Peabody Energy - the US's biggest coal company and one of the members fueling ACCCE, the Tobacco Institute-esque, polluter-dominated coalition fighting clean energy policies - admitted to injecting wastes known to cause cancer, organ failures and other disease at illegally high concentrations.
Yes, there is a clear contradiction here. One of the biggest members of a coalition that has spent tens of millions of dollars attempting to persuade Americans that coal is clean has been tied to the destruction of a community's water source by pumping carcinogenic and other chemicals into the ground.
Of course, the Times article covers much more than just the Peabody connection, but given Peabody's role in the debate over energy in this country I thought it'd be worth pointing out.
Its really rather sickening. While ACCCE tries to come up with new ways to explain the virtues of coal, including boasting that coal-electricity is cheaper than school supplies, and of course the moronic singing lumps of coal, kids in West Virginia are getting rashes from taking baths and losing teeth to toxic chemicals, and their families are afraid of what comes out of their tap.
As my colleague Rob Perks points out, such collateral damage from coal mining - especially mountaintop removal - is all too common.
Maybe Peabody and other companies should pull their money out of the group that acts like coal is clean, and start putting their money into cleaning up their own acts.