Congressman Cohen Demands EPA Live Up to its Duty to Protect Groundwater

September 18, 2019
Press Release
Says clean up of coal ash should be a priority


WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) questioned Dave Ross, Assistant Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water, about the agency’s retreat from protections of groundwater and, in particular, coal ash contamination. See the exchange here


Congressman Cohen noted that Tennessee has a serious problem with coal ash contamination and that he and his colleague, Congressman Tim Burchett (R-TN-02), have been working to shine light on it. 


Congressman Cohen was also critical of the EPA’s apparent retreat from regulating groundwater pollution including its reversal on the Clean Water Act’s application to discharges of pollutants that flow through groundwater before reaching a river, lake or stream.  Congressman Cohen noted that the Memphis sand aquifer has some of the highest-quality drinking water but concerns remain regarding contaminated ground water at the Allen Fossil Plant.

Congressman Cohen said: 

“I wish you would go more expansive. It’s the people’s health that’s at stake…Water creates us. Water makes us live. Water cleans up our lives and allows us to survive. When we’re blessed with clean water, we need to keep it. We don’t need to find ways to get around enforcing laws that protect water…

“Can you explain why the EPA has blocked implementation, and is considering rising and weakening, standard for toxic discharges? Mr. Ross, it is the EPA’s duty to address this widespread contamination and ensure Americans have safe sources of drinking water, clean lakes and streams and an environment free of toxic coal ash. Vulnerable communities are living with the devasting impacts of coal ash contamination every day. We expect the EPA to live up to its statutory duty to protect human health and the environment, not to avoid and evade that responsibility.” 

Congressman Cohen had requested today’s hearing and thanked the Subcommittee on Water Resource and Environment members for holding it.  Congressman Cohen also sent a Coal Ash letter to the EPA in July expressing concern regarding its failure to address pervasive water contamination due to unsafe coal ash disposal and demand answers as to why the EPA has begun to weaken several critical health and environmental protections for the disposal of coal ash, rather than protect the health of communities near the hundreds of contaminated sites identified by the industry’s own monitoring data.