With the possible exception of oil, coal causes more and more serious water pollution than any other fuel source. The coal chemical spill in West Virginia remains in the news, with a grand jury conducting a criminal investigation.
But the damage done to water resources in America as a result of coal production, unfortunately, is not a rare, one-time occurrence. Everyday discharges from old coal mines of highly acidic water and runoff from coal piles cause kill all aquatic life in streams in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. The cost of stopping these perpetual discharges runs into the tens of billions of dollars or more. And so most of these discharges into streams and rivers go on and on with no treatment whatsoever!
Then there is the coal ash waste pollution threat to water. Coal ash is the waste product left after coal is combusted to make power. It is hard to store safely for decades and is often kept in big lagoons or ponds. There are many documented instances of the waste leaching into the ground and contaminating groundwater. In the worst cases, coal ash ponds suffer a catastrophic failure and large amounts of pollution hit rivers and surface waters.
An example of such a catastrophic failure is the spill of 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in North Carolina. The coal ash came from the coal-fired power plants operating in North Carolina.
This sure does make energy efficiency, wind, solar look better and better.