Coal-fired power has long been associated with air pollution and climate change. But coal-fired power stations produce another insidious waste problem, hidden in plain sight.

When coal is burnt to make electricity, it produces tens of thousands of tonnes of toxic coal ash that is piped into dumps full of saline wastewater, creating a nasty cocktail of pollutants including mercury, lead, selenium, cadmium and arsenic.

Coal ash is one of Australia’s biggest waste problems and accounts for nearly one-fifth of the entire nation’s waste stream even though most people have never heard of it!

Right now, coal ash management is so lax that toxic coal ash sludge can leach into groundwater relied on by farmers and vital ecosystems. It can also contaminate local rivers and waterways where our children swim and our families fish.

A United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) risk assessment found that living near unlined ash dumps in the US increases the risk of damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs when people are exposed to toxins at concentrations far above safe levels.

It’s shocking that Australian governments haven’t bothered to do the research here.

Our governments must act now before this toxic time bomb causes any more damage. We’re calling on state and federal governments to take up our recommendations to:  

  • Initiate inquiries into ash dumps to comprehensively investigate the current and future threat of coal ash.
  • Make coal-fired power stations clean up existing contamination.
  • Develop national guidelines that enforce best practice management of coal ash waste.
  • Ensure power station operators pay a financial assurance and plan now for rehabilitation.
  • Ensure all information about ash dumps is publicly available.

Together, we can reduce the toxic health burden of coal-fired power stations on our communities.

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Watch the video and hear from the community on the NSW Central Coast concerned about coal ash dumps