New Report Shows Power Plants Are Poisoning Our Water


News from Clean Energy Now

June 17, 2015

Contact: Marissa Luna, 989-798-3051,

New Report Shows Power Plants Are Poisoning Our Water

EPA must stop water pollution, finalize a strong rule

MICHIGAN – Today, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, and Clean Water Action released a report on the dangers that pollution from fossil-fuel burning power plants poses to public health and the significant health benefits that a strong new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule would produce.

The report also presents evidence that the EPA has been under-estimating the public health benefits of controlling pollutants like arsenic, lead, and mercury, released by power plants into rivers, lakes and streams.

“This report shows that we can work together to protect public health and our Great Lakes by urging the EPA to finalize the strongest rule possible to stop water pollution from power plants,” said Margi Armstrong, Lake St. Clair Program Coordinator for Clean Water Action. “It’s past time for the EPA to hold the power plant industry accountable for their rampant pollution.”

In September 2015, the EPA will issue new safeguards to reduce toxic pollutants in power plant wastewater, which will produce enormous benefits to human health and protect Michigan’s Great Lakes and environment. Toxic discharge safeguards have not been updated since 1982, and power plants’ toxic dumping into the nation’s waterways now totals billions of pounds per day.

“I live near DTE’s River Rouge plant that is authorized to dump more than 650 million gallons of pollution into the river every day, contaminating the water we use for boating, fishing, swimming, and even drinking,” Alisha Winters, River Rouge resident. “Once the EPA makes power plants clean up their pollution the water will be safer to drink, fish will be safer to eat, and fewer people will get cancer. The EPA must take strong action to protect our communities.”

Power plants spew tens of thousands of pounds of contaminants into waterways each year, including lead and mercury. Lead can affect mental development and cause hyperactivity and behavioral and attention deficits in children. Mercury can cause permanent developmental and neurological damage to babies exposed in utero, most commonly through the mother’s consumption of mercury-contaminated fish.

“Every year thousands of children are born at risk for brain developmental problems because of exposure to toxic chemicals in our water supply, particularly children in Detroit who are surrounded by polluting industries. The EPA must act to hold polluters accountable for cleaning up the toxic chemicals they are dumping into our water,” said Stacy Davis, an IBCLC and Program Coordinator for Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Association. “No child’s health should be put at risk when power plants are perfectly capable of stopping polluting.”

The benefits to public health, downstream communities, and the fact that it is an economic driver justify the largest possible reduction of toxic discharges. Unfortunately the EPA’s analysis only estimated the economic value of three specific human health benefits. The EPA disregarded the positive impact of, among other things, safer drinking water and fish that are safer to eat in waterways downstream from power plants. When the full range of benefits is taken into account, the strongest possible regulations are justified.

The water pollution caused by coal plants does not affect everyone equally. Communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted. Additionally, coal plants are often located in areas where communities are impacted by other industrial pollution sources, which results in cumulative chemical exposure that increases the potential for cancer and other diseases.

“Detroit and other downriver communities are surrounded by some of the most polluting industries in the country. It’s not just pollution in the water that’s hurting people, it’s pollution in the air too – it’s all around,” said Regina Strong, Director, Michigan Beyond Coal Campaign for the Sierra Club. “Power plant companies are sacrificing our health for short-term profit. People in the community have been fighting back for decades, now it’s time for the EPA to do what’s right and put our health and safety over corporate polluters.”

A copy of the final report can be downloaded here.


Clean Energy Now is a coalition of groups that supports policies that will move Michigan beyond coal power and toward greater use of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as a way to protect the environment and build prosperity. Follow the campaign at

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