Did you know that Alabama is both the number-one state for freshwater biodiversity, but also the state with some of the highest releases of coal ash?
The volunteer-led nonprofit organization Black Warrior Riverkeepers
to improving water quality, habitat, recreation, and public health
throughout the Black Warrior River watershed, which covers an amazing 6,276 square miles, is home to over one million residents, and contains more than 16,000 miles of mapped streams.
But coal ash -- a byproduct of coal-fed electricity plants -- threatens some of those rivers and streams. According to a press release (PDF
) from Black Warrior Riverkeepers, Alabama power plants reported disposing of 112.8 million pounds of toxic metals or metal compounds in 2010, including arsenic, chromium, lead, and other pollutants. This is a 9% increase in disposed of toxins compared to 2009.
These toxins are released into "coal ash ponds" -- unlined "surface impoundments" which can seep into groundwater. According to Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke, "These coal ash ponds discharge wastewater directly to surface waters in large volumes on a daily basis. A major concern moving forward is the increase in the amount of toxics being discharged by the coal-fired power plants to these coal ash ponds and ultimately to surface waters due to the addition of scrubbers, which pull some pollutants out of their air emissions and transfer them to our water resources instead."
Black Warrior Riverkeeper encourages residents in the greater Birmingham region and throughout Alabama to insist that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management make Alabama Power's permits "more protective of our rivers, lakes, and public health."