Coal ash victory in Iowa!

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Kelly Fuller

Sep 26, 2009, 2:23:25 PM9/26/09

Good news!


The three regents universities in Iowa that have been dumping their coal ash into the unlined Waterloo quarry have announced that in January they are going to begin monitoring groundwater at the site.


Congratulations to the many people who made this happen. Although a lot more than just voluntary groundwater monitoring is needed, the universities' decision is a step in the right direction. Coal combustion waste (a.k.a. coal ash) is the material leftover when coal is burned. It contains cancer-causing heavy metals that can contaminate drinking water, but in Iowa, it is often simply dumped into unlined pits without any groundwater monitoring.

As you may know, Plains Justice has pioneered the effort to reform coal combustion waste disposal in Iowa. Much of that time Plains Justice has been the only voice trying to make something happen. We are delighted to see students, administrators and others from the universities getting involved in the issue.


In 2007, we published a Coal Combustion Waste Disposal Report that detailed the many risks of improper coal combustion waste disposal and where some of Iowa's worst disposal sites are. 


We were the only environmental organization that submitted comments in 2008 when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) began a rulemaking procedure to regulate disposal. When the DNR caved in to industry pressure and abandoned that rulemaking process, we raised the alarm, resulting in a public outcry. We have continued to watchdog the issue. This year, we made presentations to the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC), a citizen oversight commission that oversees the state of Iowa's environmental protection efforts -- Plains Justice President and Founder Carrie La Seur was appointed by Governor Culver to the EPC earlier this year. We have also reached out to groups and university students to inform them of the problem. Our public-health specialist has given presentations on the human health risks. (Please contact Plains Justice if you belong to a group that would like more information about her free presentations.)

Jason Hancock and the Iowa Independent deserve thanks for publishing so many articles about this issue. At a time of diminished resources for investigative journalism, their coverage of coal ash disposal has been a refreshing exception. You can read Hancock's past articles at the Iowa Independent site.
Kelly Fuller

Communications Director

Plains Justice

100 E. Main St.

Vermillion, SD  57069

(605) 659-0298


Plains Justice serves northern plains communities from offices in Iowa, Montana, and South Dakota.

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