The Stream, March 5: Coal Ash Tainting Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants, Study Finds

The Global Rundown

Components of coal ash are discovered in groundwater near most U.S. coal plants. Serbia rethinks wastewater processing in a bid to join the European Union. Disease spikes in drought-stricken Pakistan as people consume salty, contaminated water. Nearly half of water basins in the United States could fail to meet demand by 2071, a new study finds. Farming pollution leaves two-thirds of New Zealand’s waterways “unswimmable.”

“I really thought that once people started dying, that things would change and people would take notice. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case.” –Professor Russell Death, a New Zealand ecologist, in reference to a 2016 outbreak of gastroenteritis in the country that left four people dead. A government inquiry found that the outbreak was likely due to sheep faeces in the local water supply. A boom in pastoral farming has caused a rapid decline in the quality of New Zealand’s waterways, as animal waste and fertilizers create toxic algae blooms and other issues. New Zealanders named water pollution as a top concern in a recent poll. The Guardian

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By The Numbers

91 percent Proportion of U.S. coal plants that reported dangerous levels of toxic metals in the groundwater near their coal ash dumps, according to a study led by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice groups. Sixty percent of the sites reported elevated lithium levels in surrounding groundwater, and 52 percent noted unsafe arsenic contamination. Citing possible threats to drinking water, the report calls for stricter coal ash regulations. Reuters

Less than 10 percent Proportion of wastewater that is processed in Serbia. Many cities, including the country’s two largest, deposit raw sewage directly into waterways. Serbia hopes to join the European Union by 2025, but first, it must meet EU environmental and emissions standards, which could cost upwards of 15 billion euros ($17 billion). Improving wastewater treatment will be a large part of the process. Reuters

Science, Studies, And Reports

Population growth and climate change are threatening the long-term sustainability of water basins across the U.S., according to preliminary government-backed research. The study estimates that up to 96 of the country’s 204 major freshwater basins could stop meeting monthly demands by 2071. World Economic Forum

On The Radar

The Red Cross is reporting “alarmingly high” levels of hunger and disease in drought-stricken Pakistan. The organization says a lack of safe drinking water is the main driver behind the disease outbreaks, as citizens are forced to drink salty or contaminated water. Reuters

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