Utilities Poison Water to Meet EPA Air Regs

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 2, 2009 4:14 PM CDT
A flock of geese fly past a smokestack at the Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – A federal law that keeps utilities from poisoning the air is causing toxic metals to infiltrate US waterways, the Washington Post reports. As the Environmental Protection Agency debates possible solutions with lawmakers, utility companies are storing pollutants like mercury and selenium in sludge ponds that eventually leak into lakes and rivers.

It makes no sense to solve “one environmental problem by creating another," one green advocate said. Highly toxic selenium, meanwhile, is contaminating fish that end up on dinner plates; some states have issued consumer warnings. And utilities are often caught between state or local laws and the EPA. “The standards we have to meet, we are meeting," said one director whose utility produces selenium at 100 times over EPA limits.