Coal Ash Wednesday: Big Sky, big water contamination problem

Ranchers in Montana have been fighting coal ash leaks for years:

During the construction of the coal fired Colstrip power plants in the 70’s and 80’s, adjacent landowners to the ash settling pond sites raised concerns about contamination from coal ash into the shallow aquifers. We in agriculture rely on these aquifers (water quality and quantity) for stock water and domestic use for our homes. During the permitting process, the Board of Health required Montana Power Company to construct the ponds to be “completely sealed.” In fact, the term was underlined within the permit language. The permit also required ponds to be a “closed loop system.”

Montana Power Company then successfully petitioned the Board of Health to alter the parameters of the permit AFTER THE PERMIT WAS GRANTED.

Before we continue, it’s important to note: As with many industrial operations, “best practices” technology and processes already exist with coal ash management, that greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of toxic leakage. But those best practices cost money, and avoiding having to implement them has become an art with many utilities across the US. Back to Clint’s testimony:



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