There’s a good news-bad news quality to a recent report by Duke University-led researchers about hexavalent chromium in North Carolina drinking wells. The good news is that the toxic chemical in the water occurs naturally. That means it didn’t come from nearby coal-ash ponds.
Duke Energy and Dominion both surely breathed a sigh of relief, and the study should tamp down criticism from environmentalists who see power companies as the locus of evil in the modern world.
They won't be appeased. They'll just find another cause for opposition. If you read the report, it's not just that the hexavalent chromium didn't come from the ash ponds, it's clear that there is simply no evidence of any leakage from the ponds into the drinking water wells.
What’s more, the fact that hexavalent chromium is not coming from coal ash depositories does not mean those depositories are harmless. They still contain significant amounts of other toxic chemicals, such as arsenic. And coal-burning remains one of the dirtiest means of generating electricity — which is why the trend away from coal toward gas-fired and other forms of generation should continue as rapidly as possible.
Yep, coal burning is a terrible way to make power, but thanks to "environmentalists" previous (and only slowly weakening) opposition to nuclear power, it's a major part of what we need to supply the energy for our civilization.
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