Coal Ash and Summer Fun Just Don’t Mix

Is there any better way to beat the heat than a trip down a lazy river?

If you’re anything like me, this is the time of year when you’re gearing up to get out on your favorite waterway for some summer fun. Whether you’re tubing, paddling, fishing, swimming or just taking in the scenery; our region’s rivers, lakes and streams are the perfect place to cool off and enjoy the great outdoors!

Waterways are also vitally important to our communities and economy; with rivers alone providing drinking water for over 65% of Americans and generating $86 billion a year in economic activity. As National Rivers Months draws to an end, it’s important not only to get out and enjoy the amazing waterways we’re blessed with in the Southeast, but to also take action to protect our waterways from threats like toxic coal ash.

You’ve likely heard about the Dan River coal ash spill that happened this February and all the news about North Carolina’s coal ash that’s come to light since then. Right now, the North Carolina Legislature is moving a bill that could help clean up the state’s coal ash dumpsites (if you live in NC, click here to ask your elected officials to make necessary improvements to this bill).

But coal ash isn’t just a problem in North Carolina, the Southeast is home to over 450 toxic dumpsites that threaten communities and the waterways we all love and depend on. 

The map at www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org offers in depth information on the region's coal ash impoundments.

Unfortunately, no matter where you live in the region, there’s a good chance of coal ash endangering the places you live, work and play. An easy way to find out about coal ash in your backyard is to visit www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org that features an interactive map and detailed information on the region’s ash impoundments. The site also features dozens of informational pages where you can learn more about the latest coal ash news, what’s happening in your state and take action to forward coal ash protections.

Our Footprints blog is also a great place to find out the latest coal ash news, such as our recently initiated legal fight moving in Florida with SACE and others to stop Gulf Power’s illegal pollution at their Scholz coal plant in the panhandle.

Last summer we published a blog series called “Southeast River Runs”, highlighting coal ash problems on eight Southeastern rivers and river basins — find your nearest river below and read up on coal ash concerns nearby:

Southeastern rivers are home to an amazing array of species; many rare or endangered like the Rocky Shoals Spider Lily. The Catawba River supports the largest known population of this beautiful flower.

Tennessee River

Savannah River

Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin 

Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin

Waccamaw River

French Broad River

Black Warrior River

Catawba River

Coal ash is far from a new problem, many impoundments in the region are over 40 years old, but have remained “out of sight, out of mind” for far too long. It’s unfortunate that it’s taken large-scale disasters like those at Kingston, Tennessee and North Carolina’s Dan River to raise awareness to this important issue, but thankfully we have the tools and resources available to better understand these problem sites. So, take some time to learn about coal ash near you, send a message to decision makers asking for action to clean things up, and talk to your friends and family about what you’ve learned. And no matter what you do, get out on the water this summer and have some fun!

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