Cleaning Up Coal Ash

Coal ash pond at Buck Steam Station, photo by Les Stone/Greenpeace
Coal Ash pond at Buck Steam Station, photo by Les Stone/Greenpeace

Campaign Update

Coal ash is the toxic byproduct of burning coal for electricity. Every year, coal plants across the United States generate 140 million tons of coal ash, making it the second largest waste stream in the U.S.

There are 25 heavy metals — including arsenic, mercury, lead and selenium — and other dangerous chemicals found in coal ash. Although coal ash is a toxic and hazardous material, it is currently less regulated than household garbage. Federal and state regulations are either non-existent or sparse, and there is little enforcement of what regulations do exist by state or federal agencies.

Coal ash is stored across the country in excavated pits (ponds) and landfills, and coal ash wastewater is legally and illegally discharged into rivers and lakes. It also seeps into groundwater from faulty landfills and is carried by the wind into surrounding communities. Coal ash ponds are held back by earthen dams – and in extreme cases these dams break and spill thousands of tons of ash into the environment. The Kingston, Tenn., and Eden, N.C., coal ash disasters left a legacy of poisoned rivers, damaged communities and little recourse for the damage.

Whether there are slow, long-term pollution releases or sudden, disastrous spills, coal ash contamination harms us all. Watch how just one community — out of thousands across the country — has been impacted by coal ash:

It’s time we stand together for a healthy environment and safe communities. Citizen actions have already taken this movement to the headlines of major news networks and to the forefront of environmental justice conversations in the US.

Join us now in the fight to stop toxic coal ash contamination today and tomorrow.

Coal Plant Wastewater

Wastewater from coal power plants containing coal ash and other contaminants is the leading source of toxic water pollution in the U.S. Yet, the federal rule for regulating this waste has not been updated in more than 30 years. As a result, a majority of coal plants have no limits on discharging toxics like arsenic, lead and mercury into America’s waters. Learn more >>

Get Involved

Appalachian Voices is committed to working with residents, state and federal agencies, and state and federal governments to encourage the adoption of stronger regulations on coal ash and protect the health of our communities and waterways. Stay up-to-date with the latest news and information on how you can take action by signing the Pledge for Clean Water.


Sign up to become a Voice for clean water

Southeastcoalash.org lets citizens learn about specific coal ash dumps in the South, including information on health threats and safety ratings. Brought to you by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Southern Environmental Law Center, Appalachian Voices, N.C. Conservation Network and more.