Report Finds Widespread Contamination at Coal Ash Sites, Including One Near San Antonio

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The San Miguel Power Plant, located an hour South of San Antonio was named one of the most-contaminated coal-ash waste sites in the country in a new report. - GOOGLE MAPS
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  • The San Miguel Power Plant, located an hour South of San Antonio was named one of the most-contaminated coal-ash waste sites in the country in a new report.
Ninety-one percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants are leaking unsafe levels of contaminants, including arsenic and chromium, into nearby groundwater, according to an environmental report released Monday.

And the San Miguel Power Plant an hour south of San Antonio is among the 10 most-polluted of the 250 sites analyzed in the data, said the report's authors, Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice. The plant's operator, the San Miguel Electric Cooperative, disputes that ranking.

The environmental organizations' jointly released research suggests that the majority of on-site dumps storing coal waste at power plants have leaked toxins into nearby groundwater. What's more, the contamination levels often exceed thresholds set by federal regulators.

"This is a wake-up call for the nation," said Lisa Evans, Earthjustice's senior counsel said in a press statement. "Using industry’s own data, our report proves that coal plants are poisoning groundwater nearly everywhere they operate. The Trump Administration insists on hurting communities across the U.S. by gutting federal protections. They are making a dire situation much worse.”



According to the report, groundwater beneath a family ranch adjacent the San Miguel Power Plant is contaminated with at least 12 pollutants leaking from on-site coal ash dumps — and at concentrations 100 times above safe levels.

In a statement emailed to the Current, officials with the electric cooperative said the report fails to mention that the groundwater at the site is not used for drinking.

"San Miguel questions the methodology the EIP report used to come up with this ranking system because it does not take into account situations, like San Miguel, where the groundwater in question was previously impacted by naturally occurring levels of constituents making it unfit to drink," the statement also said.

A separate January report by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice cited coal-ash contamination at all 16 of Texas' coal-fired power plants, including CPS Energy's two Calaveras Lake power plants.

Coal-ash contamination isn't centralized in Texas but distributed throughout the United States, according to the latest report. The list of the 10 most-polluted sites includes locations in Utah, North Carolina and Maryland, among other states.

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