Together with Environmental Justice Australia and Friends of Latrobe Water (FLOW) we released a report in December 2021 on the impacts of toxic coal ash.
Coal ash is the waste produced after coal is burned. It contains concentrated heavy metals and fine particle pollution, and is mixed with water to create a slurry, which is then kept in dams. But because of poor regulation, these dams have been leaching into groundwater. We know from case studies in the USA that the full extent of contamination only appears decades after the dams start operating.
For years, the Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has allowed big polluters like AGL and Energy Australia to operate their coal power stations without without strong regulations to prevent water contamination and serious adverse health impacts for the surrounding community.
Current EPA guidelines categorises coal ash dams as landfill — but the guidelines for managing landfill are totally inappropriate for managing coal ash slurry. Management plans for ash dams are also not publicly available, so communities have no opportunity to scrutinise what the coal power station operators are doing, or not doing, to stop the pollution of our waterways.
The report, When the ash settles: cleaning up Latrobe Valley’s toxic coal ash, has shone a light on this critical issue we’ll continue placing pressure on the EPA to fix the regulations.