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Are Pennsylvania Residents at Risk of Harm Due to Coal Ash Pollution?

 Posted on February 07, 2023 in Toxic Exposure

Allegheny County Coal Plant Pollution Lawyers

Every year, millions of tons of coal ash are disposed of by power plants throughout the United States. This ash can contain high levels of toxic substances that can be hazardous to human health. For Pennsylvanians living near coal plants, this is a serious concern. Those who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals due to pollution by coal plants will need to understand how they may have been affected, and by working with an attorney, they can determine their options for pursuing compensation for the harm they have suffered.

What Is Coal Ash?

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal for electricity production. This waste is often dumped into ash ponds located near coal plants, and in the vast majority of plants throughout the United States, these ponds are unlined. This allows toxic substances in coal ash to enter groundwater, contaminating the water supply and being absorbed into the soil. This contamination can affect people for years or even decades.

While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put rules in place requiring coal plants to dispose of coal ash properly, many facilities have failed to take the proper efforts to address this issue, remove existing waste, or prevent further contamination of groundwater. Some plants have delayed cleanup and pollution prevention efforts or have failed to properly report on their disposal practices, leading to continued contamination. In other cases, plants closed ash ponds before the rules went into effect, leaving ash in locations where it will continue to pollute the water and soil. Only a very small percentage of coal plants have made a meaningful effort to address this issue.

How Does Coal Ash Affect Pennsylvania Residents?

When coal ash disposal is not properly managed, multiple types of toxic chemicals can leach into underground aquifers used for drinking water supplies and agricultural irrigation systems. These toxic substances include:

  • Arsenic -

    Ingestion of this substance can cause damage to the nervous system and cardiovascular system, and it may also lead to lung cancer, skin cancer, or cancer of the urinary tract.

  • Cadmium -

    This metal may cause lung cancer, prostate cancer, and damage to the reproductive system.

  • Chromium -

    This mineral can cause damage to the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. It may lead to ulcers, stomach cancer, asthma, lung cancer, or anemia.

  • Lead -

    This heavy metal can harm multiple bodily systems, and it may lead to kidney disease, cardiovascular issues, damage to the nervous system, or even death.

  • Mercury -

    This metal can damage the nervous system, and it can lead to developmental disorders that are particularly harmful for infants and children.

  • Selenium -

    Exposure to this mineral can cause irritation of the lungs, resulting in coughing and shortness of breath, and it can also lead to nausea, abdominal pain, and chronic headaches. It has also been known to lead to fatigue, hair loss, dental cavities, and mood disorders such as depression and irritability.

  • Thallium -

    This chemical is the primary ingredient in rat poison, and it can damage the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

Contact Our Allegheny County Coal Plant Pollution Lawyers

Pennsylvania residents living near power plants need to be aware of the potential risks posed by coal ash pollution. While there are steps that government organizations can take to reduce these risks—such as strengthening regulations on storage and disposal—individuals should also seek out more information about how these pollutants might affect them directly.

Those who have suffered harm due to exposure to these substances may be able to pursue compensation from a plant's owners or others who failed to take the proper measures to prevent the release of toxic chemicals. At Colianni & Leonard LLC, our Wexford toxic chemical injury attorneys can help address these issues, and we will work to ensure that injury victims can receive the compensation that will allow them to address the harm done to their families. To set up a free consultation, contact our office today at 412-680-7877.


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