More than 1.7 million tons of coal ash is produced in Michigan every year but an environmental group says the state’s regulation of the material is lax, creating the potential for environmental contamination.
A report released Friday by the national nonprofit Clean Water Fund faults the state for failing to live up to its “Pure Michigan” promotions by failing to properly address coal ash which it says contains toxic chemicals including mercury, selenium and arsenic that are known to cause cancer and neurological disorders.
The report found that a majority of the coal ash disposal sites in the state are contaminated and potentially leaking these chemicals into ground and surface water.
It shows that more than half of the state’s 29 coal ash disposal sites are unregulated by state authorities. Fourteen of those sites qualify as Type III (3) for low-level hazardous waste storage.
According to the report, secondary uses of coal ash, such as construction fill, puts some areas in greater risk of environmental contamination. The environmental group wants the state to commit to providing better public information on coal ash storage sites and require enforcement by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality of known coal ash contamination sites.
Earlier this week, a U.S. Circuit Court judge ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to submit a plan for regulating coal ash disposal within 60 days. DEQ officials believe they will fall short of what is being enforced in Michigan.