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Chemical contamination from 7 Colorado coal-fired power plants found during groundwater monitoring

Report finds cases much worse in other states

Tamara Chuang
Colorado Sun
Carbon dioxide bellows from a coal-fired power plant near Boulder, CO.
Shutterstock

When Platte River Power Authority checked the groundwater near its Rawhide power plant for coal-ash contamination last year, it found some. Levels of selenium, which can cause human hair loss and deformities in fish and wildlife, were higher than deemed safe by federal groundwater protection standards.

The authority, which released the Rawhide report in January, was already working to reduce the potential for contamination at its Larimer County site. But the statistically significant increase was a surprise, said Chris Wood, Platte River’s environmental services manager.

“The short answer is Platte River Power Authority sees no immediate harm or risk to human health or the environment,” Wood said. “…We’ve monitored it in the past, and it was never an issue. It’s not a big change, but big enough change statistically that it’s pulled us into the regulatory process. The next steps are to continue to monitor and evaluate the different corrective actions.”

Since federal regulations kicked in a few years ago, coal-fired power plants are required to monitor and publicly report what happens to the residue from burning coal and determine whether chemicals are seeping from the coal-ash disposal sites into the groundwater.

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But the reporting process is inconsistent between facilities and the data collected is often complicated to interpret. So a group of environmentalists culled the data from 265 coal-fired power plants or ash dumps, including seven in Colorado, and found 91 percent had unsafe levels of one or more chemicals in nearby groundwater.

Read the full story via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.


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