When the Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1972, it was meant to restrict businesses from polluting and contaminating their local environments. Whether or not the specifics of the legislation have done enough to satisfy environmental activists is an argument in itself, but one group of activists is claiming a power plant out west is using the land they own nearby to circumvent the nation’s laws.
According to ThinkProgress.org, a coalition of environmental activist groups have filed a lawsuit against PacifiCorp, one of the West’s leading energy suppliers, for allegedly using land the company owns as a research farm to dump toxic and harmful materials from their Huntington Power Plant, located about 110 miles south east of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the Huntington Power Plant has been improperly disposing of coal ash and other pollutants for years. The plant has onsite landfills to dispose of coal ash, but according to Richard Webster, an attorney with Public Justice working on the case, they’ve been using a loophole in the system to get away with unregulated toxic dumping.
Natasha Geiling from Think Progress summarized the situation succinctly:
“The Huntington plant began intercepting water from two streams that drain the coal ash landfills in 2007. That water was then diverted to a holding pond used to irrigate the nearby research farm,” Geiling explained in her piece. “By diverting the contaminated water from the landfill into a holding pond, Webster said that the power plant is able to side-step the need for permits and pollution treatment required by the Clean Water Act, since Huntington Creek — into which the streams used to flow — is listed as an impaired waterway.”
The fact that a company would be engaging in this sort of activity shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone paying attention. Approximately 80% of the most serious hazardous waste sites in the U.S. have adversely impacted the quality of nearby groundwater, and legislation has proven to be woefully ineffective at combating the issue in many cases.
For its part, the power company claims that the entire controversy is a sham drummed up by misleading data and “unfounded” allegations.
“Rocky Mountain Power has a long record of excellent compliance with state and federal environmental laws,” PacifiCorp said in a statement. “We are committed to maintain[ing] this record. The company has taken proactive measures at the Huntington power plant to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and has obtained the appropriate permits to undertake these actions.”