Saturday, October 17, 2009

NYT 10/13/09 Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

Coal-fired power plants release lots of toxins into the air if they aren't regulated and they are thought to cause respiratory diseases and acide rain. One of the solutions implimented at Allegheny Energy is the installation of scrubbers which clean the air emissions. This process sprays water and chemicals through the plant's chimneys which traps more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year. However, the wastewater is dumped into the Monongahela River which people drink from. From one powerplant the wastewater doesn't affect the drinking water but if the number of scrubbers used around the nation increases it could pose more of a problem. There are currently no federal regulations dealing with the disposal of power plant discharges and laws such as the Clean Water Act don't mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals. The goal is for power plants to actually clean up pollution not just moving it around. The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to revise standards for water discharges from coal-fired plants. There are a lot of processes to go through in order to get new laws and there is the disagreements of safety of the people living around the area vs. cost of the power plants. Toxins from these plants seem to be extremely hazardous and so it seems like the cheapest tolerable solution shouldn't be the best answer.

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