Tell the EPA: Keep Our Water Clean and Safe

Empowered By

The Sierra Club's mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth.

About the Petition

Every year, the nation’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic by-product that is left over after the coal is burned. All that ash has to go somewhere, so it’s dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation, into open-air pits and precarious surface waste ponds. Many of these sites lack adequate safeguards, leaving nearby communities at risk from potential large-scale disasters like the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee in 2008, and from gradual yet equally dangerous contamination as coal ash toxins seep into drinking water sources or are blown into nearby communities.

Coal ash pollution contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and hexavalent chromium. The public health hazards and environmental threats to nearby communities from unsafe coal ash dumping have been known for many years, including increased risk of cancer, learning disabilities, neurological disorders, birth defects, reproductive failure, asthma, and other illnesses.

Coal ash is not subject to federal protections, and state laws governing coal combustion waste disposal are usually weak or non-existent. The result: millions of tons of coal ash are being stored in ponds, landfills, and abandoned mines.

Photo Credit: Juan Silva/Getty Images

To: Gina McCarthy, EPA Administrator

Along with all 2.1 million Sierra Club members and supporters, I urge the Environmental Protection Agency to finalize zero-discharge water pollution standards to limit the amount of toxic metals that can be dumped into our waters from power plants.  

By requiring coal plants to move hazardous coal ash with dry systems, rather than with water, the EPA can eliminate millions of gallons of dangerous ash wastewater every year. Smokestack scrubber sludge can also be treated using zero-discharge systems, and certainly requires at least biological and chemical treatment to remove toxic heavy metals like selenium, arsenic, mercury, and lead.  

The Environmental Protection Agency's strongest proposed approach is sensible, affordable, and already being used by some coal plants. Limiting the amount of pollution in our water will save lives, prevent children from getting sick, and ensure our water is safe to drink and our fish safe to eat. It should be finalized and put into force as soon as possible. 


[Your name here]

Action Updates

  • 30 April 2015

    We did it!

    Thank you for helping us reach 20,000 supporters! Let's keep the momentum going!


  • 29788
    Barbara Brockell
    Easley, SC
    6 hours ago
  • 29787
    Lois Kribel
    Green Valley, AZ
    7 hours ago
  • 29786
    Mark Davis
    Brooklyn, NY
    8 hours ago
  • 29785
    Jane Oakley
    Southport, NC
    10 hours ago
  • 29784
    Maureen Wheeler
    Silver Spring, MD
    10 hours ago
  • 29783
    Thais Reginah Simundi
    12 hours ago
  • 29782
    Alicia Kern
    Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA
    23 hours ago
  • 29781
    Elizabeth Pritchard
    Sykesville, MD
    1 day ago
  • 29780
    Janine Vinton
    1 day ago
  • 29779
    Genie And Bob Mc Combs
    Kingston, TN
    1 day ago
  • 29778
    Joseph Tanel
    1 day ago
  • 29777
    * Zentura
    Casper, WY
    1 day ago
  • 29776
    Ronald Messina
    Greenwell Springs, LA
    1 day ago
  • 29775
    Melanie Minnich
    Lorain, OH
    1 day ago

Get More