Reducing Water Pollution from Power Plants | US EPASteam electric power plants use heat to create steam that turns a turbine and produces electr...Reducing Water Pollution from Power Plants | US EPA
Steam electric power plants use heat to create steam that turns a turbine and produces electricity. Coal is one fuel that can be used to create heat, others include natural gas, oil, and nuclear fuel. Steam-electric power plants use a lot of water. In 2015, these facilities withdrew 133 billion gallons of water per day—primarily from our rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Coal-fired power plants use water for cooling, generating steam, and for industrial processes like scrubbing air pollutants and transporting coal ash. The industrial process wastewater that is returned to the environment can contain toxic metals and other pollutants that contaminate our vital water sources. Not only does this threaten fish and wildlife, but it can also contribute to serious health risks for people—like cancer in adults and lowered IQs in children. Some of these pollutants, once they are discharged into the environment, can remain there for years.
At EPA, it’s our privilege and responsibility to implement the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress 50 years ago with a bold vision that our waters be fishable and swimmable. Under this authority, we follow the science, including innovations in pollution control technology that can get us closer to the clean water future Congress called for.
EPA is committed to following the science and we are proud to propose the strongest limits ever on wastewater discharges from coal fired power plants, using decisions rooted in science.
This is why we proposed to strengthen wastewater discharge standards that apply to coal-fired power plants. EPA’s proposal applies the agency’s longstanding authority under the Clean Water Act to establish discharge standards that reflect the ability of more advanced treatment technologies to remove pollutants.
The Clean Water Act also gives the Environmental Protection Agency flexibility to create workable compliance options for coal-fired power plants that have already invested in water pollution controls or may stop burning coal in the coming years. These flexibilities are also a key feature of EPA’s proposal.