Monday, November 9, 2009

would you like water or air pollution with that?

In response to respiratory illnesses caused by yellow smoke emissions from coal-fired power plants (and several lawsuits), Allegheny Energy tried a new approach: installing scrubbers to clean the plant's air emissions.

The "victory" was short-lived.

Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north.

...Much power plant waste once went into the sky, but because of toughened air pollution laws, it now often goes into lakes and rivers, or into landfills that have leaked into nearby groundwater, say regulators and environmentalists.

...The Environmental Protection Agency projects that by next year, roughly 50 percent of coal-generated electricity in the United States will come from plants that use scrubbers or similar technologies, creating vast new sources of wastewater.Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills.

Read the full article

1 comment:

Aequitas2787 said...

I'll take water pollution for $300 please... I'm curious... when it says "chemicals" that sounds really bad but historically words like "chemicals" get used in one of two circumstances...
1. if they said what the "nasty chemicals" were people wouldn't care because they aren't that harmful or
2. it's long technical names that people probably wouldn't be familiar with anyway...

happen to know if this falls in one of those camps?

I'm just curious if the water pollution is an improvement over the air pollution or if the regulation actual made things worse...

I dislike pollution a LOT but I'm all about incremental steps towards improvement and not about trying to reach some utopian state short term...

Frankly, without coal plants millions of poor and middle class families would have untold hardship... ranging from increased energy costs to unemployment and blackouts... I'd venture to bet that it would take 50 years for us to properly move to different energy in many US markets... and regardless... if we stopped using coal tomorrow the plummet in price would lead to increased use in the developing world. So ultimately it would be worse for the environment as a whole... we burn coal much cleaner than India or China or most other coal burning countries... The darker side of the coin is with cheaper energy abroad it would be harder for our low and middle class to compete in the global market because of the cost difference in inputs... lots of bad things for lots of people with very little upside other than our country would be cleaner (though the world as a whole would be worse).