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Washington, D.C. —Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized new wastewater standards that drastically weaken human health and environmental protections from pollution discharged by coal-fired power plants.

This new rule relaxes standards finalized in 2015 that required the first-ever limits on the amount of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, nitrogen, and other harmful chemicals power plants can dump into lakes, rivers, and other water bodies. This week's action will result in more selenium and mercury discharged into U.S. water bodies by allowing power plants to continue to use cheaper, less effective technology to treat wastewater.

Also under the new rule, power plants can continue to discharge unlimited amounts of bromide, even though EPA’s own record shows that bromide discharges threaten downstream drinking water systems. When exposed to disinfectants commonly used during drinking water treatment, bromide can react to form disinfectant byproducts linked to bladder cancer. 

Power plants, especially coal, are the largest source of toxic water pollution in the United States. Plants have until the end of 2025 to comply with the new standards and plants that voluntarily adopt more stringent protections will have until 2028 to comply.

Following is a statement from Jennifer Peters, Water Programs Director at Clean Water Action/Clean Water Fund:

“This reckless rollback is the latest example of the Trump administration demonstrating that it will stop at nothing to maximize profits for the deadly fossil fuel industry instead of protecting human health and clean water. It’s unconscionable for EPA to give coal plants a free pass to continue to contaminate drinking water sources and poison the rivers and lakes where people fish to put food on their table. Vulnerable communities have suffered this toxic pollution for far too long.”

“The most galling part is affordable, effective technologies exist today that could eliminate toxic metals, bromide, and other pollutants from coal plant wastewater. Power plants should be required to use these technologies instead of passing the expense of cleaning up their pollution onto downstream drinking water systems and their customers.”


Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration.