The silver-tongued liars’ playbook for coal

Coal ash scare stories are the latest tactic in their long war on coal-fueled electricity generation

Guest essay by Paul Driessen


People routinely accept risks of dying from activities they happily engage in daily. For example, the lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash is 1 in 113. That’s 8,850 times greater than the alleged lifetime risk of contracting cancer from 0.07 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium (Cr-6) in water.

Nevertheless, Cr-6 is a handy weapon in radical environmentalists’ war on coal, because it is found in fly ash from coal-fired generating plants, and many people are easily terrified by “detectable” levels of strange-sounding chemicals. The US Environmental Protection Agency and North Carolina both set the same allowable Cr-6 limits, and health experts note that the chemical comes not just from coal fly ash, but from natural rock formations across the USA.

However, anti-coal activists want absurdly low Cr-6 standards applied to all water. Perhaps even more absurd, they want utility companies to dig up millions of tons of coal ash, and haul it in tens of thousands of dump trucks, perhaps hundreds of miles … to who knows where? In whose backyard?

Coal-fired power plant scrubbers now remove 80-90 % of airborne particulate, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants. But that means “fly ash” and noncombustible residues (what we used to call clinkers) must be sent to landfills. That’s opened a new front for anti-energy activists, who use accidents, “detectable” pollutants in water, and scary stories about health threats to advance their agenda.

In 2008, a Tennessee Valley Authority earthen retainer dam near Knoxville ruptured, sending 5.4 million cubic yards of rain-soaked fly ash into a nearby river, lake and neighborhood. Twelve homes were damaged by the muck, which contained low levels of arsenic, cadmium and other metals. The TVA’s cleanup efforts were less than exemplary, as were its measures to prevent the accident in the first place.

Companies and regulators clearly must do more to prevent accidents and pollution – and more to educate people about the actual risks involved. With a new fly ash playbook being tested in North Carolina, Virginia and other states, as part of the war on coal and the keep-fossil-fuels-in-the-ground campaign, those informational efforts are vital.

Duke Energy operates 14 coal-fired electricity generating plants in North Carolina – and several large fly ash facilities. Like coal itself, the ash contains trace amounts of hexavalent chromium (chromium-6 or Cr-6) and other metals that can be toxic to humans in high doses. Blazing temperatures bond the vast majority tightly in glassy vitrified ash, and well maintained impoundments ensure that few seep out.

However, tiny amounts can still escape into nearby surface waters and groundwater. Highly sensitive scientific instruments can now detect parts per trillion – the equivalent of a few seconds in 3,300 years. In 2016, an NC state toxicologist ruled that metallic levels detected in surface and ground water around the state were dangerously high. He blamed ash from coal-fired power plants and persuaded Tar Heel health officials to send “do not drink” letters to several hundred families living near coal ash disposal sites.

In his view, there is “no safe level” for exposure to Cr-6, and the state should slash its allowable level from 100 parts per billion down to 0.07 ppb (1,428 times lower). Other health officials reviewed the scientific literature, determined that amounts detected pose no health risk, noted that Cr-6 often seeps from natural rock formations into surface and ground water, and rescinded the warning letters. But the resulting controversy continues, and the company, regulators and politicians are trying to resolve it.

Duke Energy and many health experts maintain that Cr-6 levels found near the ash facilities (and miles away, from natural sources) are far below what cause health risks. But it wants to assuage concerns among families closest to the ash facilities. So the company offered to provide alternatives to their well water, by giving them access to public water sources or installing state-of-the-art home filtration systems.

In January 2017, the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) granted preliminary approval to these company plans for homes within one-half-mile of a coal ash impoundment. Final approval is contingent on state health and environmental departments certifying that water provided via these systems meets “applicable” or “appropriate” standards for each location.

Now activists say Duke and other companies should move millions of tons of ash from multiple depositories. Not only would that involve hundreds of thousands of dump truck loads, millions of gallons of fuel, and huge trucks lumbering through towns and along back roads and highways. A far more basic question is: Take it where, exactly? Who would want it? Activists certainly offer no viable alternatives.

Companies previously proposed turning fly ash into cement blocks or gravel, for construction projects. Activists quickly nixed that option, even though it would involve virtually no contamination risks. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the real reason for all the vocal consternation is that these agitators simply want to drive coal out of business. Indeed, the same unaccountable, silver-tongued agitators also detest natural gas-generated electricity … and drilling and fracking to produce the gas. They oppose nuclear energy, and even want hydroelectric dams and power plants removed. They claim to support wind and solar, by conveniently ignoring the huge downsides pointed out here, here, here, here and elsewhere.

Forcing utility companies to spend billions relocating huge ash deposits to “lined, watertight landfills” (in someone else’s backyard) will bring no health or environmental benefits. But it will bankrupt companies, send electricity prices soaring, and hurt poor, minority and working class families the most.

If rates double from current costs in coal-reliant states like North Carolina and Virginia (9 cents per kilowatt-hour or less) to those in anti-coal New York or Connecticut (17 cents), families will have to pay $500-1,000 more annually for electricity. Hospitals, school districts, factories and businesses will have to spend additional thousands, tens of thousands or millions. Where will that money come from?

Virginia’s 665,000-square-foot Inova Fairfax Women’s and Children’s Hospital pays about $1,850,000 per year for electricity at 9 cents/kWh, but would pay $3,500,000 at 17 cents: a $1.6-million difference.

Will businesses have to lay off dozens or hundreds of employees, or close their doors? If they pass costs on to patients or customers, where will families find the extra cash? What will the poorest families do?

The war on coal, petroleum, nuclear and hydroelectric power is a callous, eco-imperialist war on reliable, affordable electricity, on jobs, and on poor and minority families. Policies that drive energy prices up drive people out of jobs, drive companies out of business, drive families into green-energy poverty.

Preventing ruptures and spills means selecting, building and maintaining the best possible ash landfill facilities. Safeguarding public water and health means properly addressing actual, proven toxicity risks.

The US Environmental Protection Agency and North Carolina set allowable Cr-6 limits at 100 ppb for drinking water (equivalent to 100 seconds in 33 years or 4 cups in 660,000 gallons of water). The state also applies a 10 ppb standard for well water. No one applies a 0.07 ppb standard (70 parts per trillion).

In 2015, the NCDEQ tested 24 wells two to five miles from the nearest coal plant or coal ash deposit; 20 had Cr-6 levels above 0.07 ppb but far below 100 ppb, underscoring its diverse origins. May 2016 tests could not even detect the chemical in Greensboro water, the News & Record reported.

A 2016 Duke University study found that hexavalent chromium is prevalent in many North Carolina surface and ground waters. Some comes from coal ash deposits, but much is leached from igneous and other rocks found throughout the Piedmont region of Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. Other health experts note that Cr-6 is found in 70% to 90% of all water supplies in the United States. Applying a 0.07 ppb would mean telling hundreds of millions of Americans not to drink their water!

Moreover, studies have found that Cr-6 in water is safe even at 100 ppb or higher. A 2012 paper in the Journal of Applied Toxicology concluded that regularly drinking water with 210 ppb of Cr-6 poses no health risks. (The real health problems involve airborne Cr-6.) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, US EPA and other studies buttress those findings.

Equally important, an ability to detect a substance does not mean it poses a risk. Cancer is certainly scary, but the risk of getting cancer is not the same as dying from it. And people routinely accept risks of dying from activities they happily engage in daily. For example, the National Safety Council puts the lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash at 1 in 113; that’s 8,850 times greater than the alleged lifetime risk of contracting cancer from 0.07 ppb Cr-6 in water. Drinking and smoking fall into the same category.

However, all too many people seem easily terrified by “detectable” levels of strange-sounding chemicals. 100% clean is not necessary, not possible, not found in nature and not a sound basis for public policy.

Coal and chemical controversies like these offer our nation, states and communities excellent opportunities to find novel solutions that recognize sound science, hidden agendas, often limited options, and undesirable repercussions of poorly informed policy decisions. Let’s hope they are up to the task.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on the environment.

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Tom Halla
March 22, 2017 6:48 am

I have seen several parodies on the dread effects of DHMO, and just how many people die of its effects. DiHydrogen MonOxide?

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 22, 2017 6:58 am

So where can I find a petition to sign????

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 22, 2017 7:38 am

“…on the dread effects of DHMO…DiHydrogen MonOxide”

I’ve noticed it can be made much enjoyable by heated to around 80°F (27°C), adding a bit of NaCl, and served surrounded by a heaping amount of SiO2. I’ve discovered that It can be quite therapeutic to be immersed in the above mixture, while absorbing pressurized N2 & O2.

Ashok Patel
Reply to  Tom Halla
March 22, 2017 8:09 am

That is plain water.
There is a website describing various uses and parameters etc. of water using the term DiHydrogen MonOxide for water taking gullible readers for a ride !

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 22, 2017 10:38 am

food is full of minerals, as are many vitamin supplement pills. I expect many of these exceed EPA safety limits for water.

pretty soon spinach will be banned because it is contaminated with iron, and bananas will be banned because they are high in potassium.

“Hexavalent chromium compounds have been shown to cause lung cancer in humans when inhaled, but it was not known whether these compounds could also cause cancer when ingested.”

Reply to  ferdberple
March 22, 2017 11:21 am

And bananas are radioactive because of this potassium.

They must be banned immediately!

G. Karst
Reply to  ferdberple
March 22, 2017 11:39 am

Checked the wife’s vitamin supplements – 200 mcg chromium per tablet. Should I call the EPA? GK

March 22, 2017 6:52 am

Millions of Dutch live below sea level but still sleep well.

March 22, 2017 7:05 am

Digging it up and hauling it anywhere is a strategy of economic punishment. Such court settlements often include full funding of the Sierra Club for its efforts and continuing payments into the future.

Reply to  Resourceguy
March 22, 2017 8:15 pm

It seems to me that digging up the fly ash would cause some of it to be airborne…which is supposed to be more dangerous.

I am sure that there are places in Virginia, North Carolina, and the rest of the country that actually DO need some sort of decontamination or cleanup of pollution. Instead of wasting money on non-problems, why not tackle a real mess? I understand that there are some former industrial sites in Chicago that never got treated (at least one is in one of the communities Obama “organized” – apparently he lost their number after getting elected). If there is so much excess “cleanup” money, perhaps it should be directed there. Actually, to an out-of-town trust in charge of taking care of the pollution. Chicago is way too corrupt to be trusted with, well, anything.

Barring that, I have some student loans that need repaid.

Tom in Denver
March 22, 2017 7:07 am

I don’t have a problem with honest discussions about particulate emissions, as long as they are weighed with honest cost benefit analysis. One need only spend a day in Beijing to know the potential for problems. At least they are no longer discussing CO2 as a pollutant.

Reply to  Tom in Denver
March 22, 2017 7:31 am

The problem is that they are still discussing CO2 as a pollutant.
This action is them opening a second front in their war on coal.

François Riverin
Reply to  Tom in Denver
March 22, 2017 10:59 am

Tom. Chineese didn’t taxe CO2 lately, but NO, N2O, etc., all toxics gas causing smog et health problems.

Reply to  Tom in Denver
March 22, 2017 11:23 am

Keep up at the back. Chinese pollution is now caused by climate change!

Danny V
March 22, 2017 7:12 am

We have skyrocketing hydro prices in Ontario, due to deals such as 80 cents per kWh for solar contracts for 20 years. All in pursuit of “green energy/economy”, and shutting down coal. Hydro rates have doubled in the past 5 years. Companies, such as mine, are seriously looking at going off grid, and setting up nat gas fired onsite co-heat/electrical plants, which deleverages the public grid, which will lead to higher consumer costs for electricity.
Good example of a doom loop.

Timo Soren
March 22, 2017 7:18 am

I believe the EPA sets the overall water level in public water at 100 ppb and there is research to show that is fine. On top of this we have had that standard a long time and it works.

I believe well waters are set at 70 due to variations caused during well use, recharge, aquafier rates and that that they test maybe once in 20 years.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Timo Soren
March 22, 2017 11:31 am

Timo, you are comparing 100 ppb, which is a reasonable, official standard to a 70 ppt (or to prevent confusion, 0.07 ppb). That’s a made-up level which is below most detection limits.

K. Kilty
March 22, 2017 7:19 am

What can a rational person say? In addition to the financial benefits superstition provides for those adept at manipulating others, the attraction of superstitions is that they provide useful (not beneficial) functions. They allow people to blame all sorts of maladies and bad luck on others. They provide explanations for an otherwise incomprehensible universe. We will never stamp the attraction of superstition out of human beings.

Dr. Bob
March 22, 2017 7:22 am

Government mandated but not funded changes can cost cities millions to billions of dollars. Such was the case with Albuquerque which was forced to change its water treatment system to remove what was then allowable levels of arsenic at 50 ppb down to the new level of 5 ppb. “Cost of Compliance with a Lower Arsenic Drinking Water Standard in New Mexico” by Kelly A. Bitner, UNM 2004.

From what I remember of the story, Albuquerque had to purchase truckloads of water treatment chemicals and haul it on open roads. The added truck traffic was projected to increase deaths on the highways but something like 20 whereas the decrease in arsenic in the drinking water would change life expectancy of an elderly person by 2-3 years due to decreased rate of pancreatic cancer as the only benefit.

This was all brought about by a new instrument that could accurately measure arsenic in water down to 5 micrograms/L which was then set as the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) with no data that there was any real benefit (e.g., realistic cost-benefit analysis).
So Albuquerque residents had to incur higher drinking water costs for essentially no benefits due to ill-conceived EPA regulation changes.

Mark T
Reply to  Dr. Bob
March 22, 2017 8:09 am

On top of that, arsenic is a naturally occurring substance.

Reply to  Mark T
March 22, 2017 8:51 am

Ranchers have found this out when their livestock well is contaminated by natural arsenic and the cattle start dying. A similar thing happened in India when it was determined the Ganges river was too polluted for drinking water and deep tubewells were drilled. The wells were naturally arsenic contaminated and many people were killed and sickened. Nature is not kind. It does not care.

March 22, 2017 7:24 am

Balanced and well put. I like different. I like quirky and eccentric. I do not favor letting the nutters make rules for my life. No contradictions in those sentiments. Bobby Kennedy Jr. And his merry band of crackpots with law degrees are a rancid remnant of Sixties radicalism. Tying up the “system” making it unworkable is their modus operandi. Remember that and you always understand what you are dealing with.

Reply to  troe
March 22, 2017 8:37 am

Still, we need the new EPA to make ‘laws’ or regs or policies based in science ie. the ppb or ppm numbers need to show causal harm, or very near causal harm or nearly causal harm. In addition, they need to demonstrate that by doing X the unintended harm created is Y lives (like the above example in Albuquerque)

March 22, 2017 7:24 am

It’s highly prescient of President Trump to redirect NASA funding back to space. It is becoming clearer every day that the Earth is far too contaminated with noxious substances for humanity to linger here much longer. What with CO2, heavy metals, ozone, gluten, reality TV, plaid curtains, and social media we need to find somewhere safe to move to as soon as possible. I am not so foolish that I don’t realize the risk of death for all of us is 100%, but we should at least endeavor not to die from natural causes.

March 22, 2017 7:39 am

How about C2H6O found in some water? It causes more early deaths than just about anything.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 22, 2017 9:58 am

“How about C2H6O found in some water?”

It’s usually in trace amount, unless it’s a weekend.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 22, 2017 10:03 am

Sometimes ice is found in it, too.

Reply to  oeman50
March 22, 2017 10:23 am

Not any more. Global warming melted all the ice.
Just ask Griff.

March 22, 2017 7:41 am

Fear and ignorance are the eco-terrorist greatest weapons. They wielded it to great effect in the town of Hinkley, CA made famous in the Erin Brockovich movie. The claim was Cr-6 levels, released by an energy company, increased local rates of cancer. However, long term studies concluding in 2000 and 2008 found no elevated cancer risk to the citizens of Hinkley. The conclusion: “The number of new cancer cases observed in the census tract encompassing Hinkley does not differ significantly from the number expected when considering the age,sex, race/ethnicity, and population size of the census tract.”

Reply to  Brad
March 22, 2017 8:56 am

True, but personal injury court cases have nothing whatsoever to do with science. It’s all about money and winning. Enriching the lawyers and shafting companies. Nothing more.

Curious George
March 22, 2017 7:48 am

When TVA dam breaks and pollutes a river, that’s horrible. When EPA breaks a dam and pollutes Animas river, that’s nothing. I did not read any news about a cleanup effort. Was there any?

March 22, 2017 7:52 am

In my part of the world, Alberta, flash used to be a valuable additive to concrete

Reply to  mike
March 22, 2017 9:02 am

It is in the US also.

Bob Burban
March 22, 2017 8:05 am

The advent of computers has enabled chemists to rapidly and routinely move from detection limits in the ppm range, to the ppb range and now into the ppt range. Meanwhile, toxicity has not changed: the poison is in the dose and not in the latest detection limit.

Reply to  Bob Burban
March 22, 2017 10:07 am

You are correct, Bob. That, combined with environmental regs that require the “best available technology” (not do no harm), emission limits get ratcheted down, I call it “regulation by analysis.”

M Courtney
March 22, 2017 8:17 am

There is a strange belief that;
‘As our ability to detect things increases, so does the potency of those things.’

It’s a form of superststion. Can anyone explain why it seems to be persuasive?

Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 9:03 am

Human beings are often irrational.

Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 9:14 am

@ M. Courtney: should that be “pervasive”?

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 9:26 am

If you can find a copy of Charles E. Warren, “Biology and Water Pollution Control,” 1971, W. B. Saunders, there are several (all?) very thoughtful chapters on pollution, including chapter 2 on the meaning of pollution. This was a period when there still serious widespread problems steadily being addressed. His rational approach was replaced by a number of “Environmental Science” textbooks which, while still providing a mass of good information, clearly were too political. They apparently sold well.

One quote from Miller’s Preface “Living in the Environment.” (8th edition, 1994) “We need an Earth Wisdom Revolution, not an information revolution.” Since Warren the technology has made enormous progress, but the wisdom(?) has long suggested that there would be a (over?) reaction. There are problems to be solved. Never found a second edition or even printing of Warren.

Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 9:58 am

The “pervasive fear” you mention is of the unknown. I suspect that all humans are predispositioned to fear the unknown. Compound this with the vast ignorance of the general populace and unscrupulous advocates for a specific agenda to create an easily manipulated electorate (useful idiots).
We have enormously expanded our ability to detect numerous substances or energies without expanding the public’s knowledge as to the relative value or meaning of the information. Absence of the relative value of the information allows the unscrupulous to manipulate the ignorant into fearful frenzy. Case in point was the announcements that nuclear radiation from the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster was being detected wafting across the Pacific ocean into Washington State. Failure to mention that the amount of radiation actually being detected was 10 times less than exposure to a ripe banana allowed the charlatans to whip the ignorant masses onto an anti-nuclear frenzy.
We are experiencing this phenomena yet again with Cr-6 and fly ash. It is a rather transparent attempt by the environmental charlatans to further manipulate the useful idiots towards accepting their misguided agenda.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  rocketscientist
March 22, 2017 4:12 pm

It is easy to invent, to visualise, to codify these aggressive people who are working against your interests and mine and by inference the public interest.
What is hard to understand is the anonymity of these activists. A few names are all known but there must be thousands of them because their combined voicesbare being heard.
I have met only a couple of people in 40 years who have openly confessed to being part of the activistvteam turning protest into acts and regulations, then because we had taken them to a Court where they were under oath.
Do readers here know of other people doing vthisbwork of activism into law? Do you have any impressions of whether there are lots of them or if they are rarely met?
If they are all around us and easy to meet and talk to, then you have a chance to point out contentious matters and try to change their actions. But I have very rarely been able to do this.
There is a tactic available, one that organises anti-activist people like you and me, to actively target the activism to law people and pressures them with alternative scenarios.
Is this feasible, or do the target people hide themselves in senior positions of influence and do their deadly work largely unseen?

Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 10:08 am

Isn’t this just another example of the oft discredited “linear, no lower threshold” fallacy used by gov agencies, NGOs and others to raise money or justify regulation by distorting mortality rates?
EPA, American Heart Assoc et al extrapolate from known harmful doses – e.g. if 1000 people die from ingesting 10 gallons of water at once, then by that logic one person will surely/b> die from drinking 1/1000th that amount.

Phil R
Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 11:15 am

I can. It’s because 10 µg/L looks a lot bigger and scarier than 0.01 mg/L. 🙂

Most people just compare numbers and don’t understand the reported units.

M Courtney
Reply to  Phil R
March 22, 2017 2:29 pm

Phil R, That’s a very good answer.

NW sage
Reply to  M Courtney
March 22, 2017 6:23 pm

Brainwashing and “feelings” rather than sound analysis.
The brainwashing stems from the obvious connection between a LOT of something ( Arsenic for example) and something bad happening (hair falling out and premature death). We are taught that over and over – thus the brainwashing. It seems logical to many that if a lot of something like arsenic is bad then a little should also be bad – just not quite as much. That is what causes people to be scared. It turns out the connection is NOT linear and often a damage threshold exists – not always published. Add to that the ability of technology to continually and more accurately measure stuff in smaller and smaller amounts – but no one goes back and measures with the new technology the old samples that were determined to NOT cause damage to see what amount was previously not detected. The result is that is ASSUMED by many that if a ‘bad’ thing can be detected – at all – it must still have the same bad effect.

March 22, 2017 9:15 am

I was in the gas mask business for 17 years. The American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists sets exposure limits by Threshold Limit Value. ACGIH has set ten micrograms per cubic meter as the standard in air. This is one of their very lowest limits, as this stuff is a potent carcinogen. That being said, lowering standards in drinking water to a level below naturally occurring levels is a YUUGE waste of money…

Reasonable Skeptic
March 22, 2017 9:20 am

In my youth I was one of those nerds that played the diabolical Dungeons and Dragons, with dice and crap like that. I wonder if the fact that I used dice to determine what happened trained my mind to understand probabilities. The other possibility is that I simply get it while others can’t. Beats me, but I would find this stuff fucking hilarious if it wasn’t constantly reaching in my pocket to take my money.

Clyde Spencer
March 22, 2017 9:31 am

In 1969, Chauncey Starr ( ) had a landmark article (Social benefit versus technological risk) published in Science magazine, wherein, he demonstrated that people are willing to take risks in proportion to the perceived benefits. That is, the greater the perceived benefit, the greater the risk they are willing to take. Unfortunately, the perceived risks and benefits are usually subjective and are the result of what the mainstream media publishes about the subject, such as with nuclear power generation and firearm ownership.

March 22, 2017 11:08 am

Should I sue the Sierra Club for endangering my life?
Because every time I read an article that contains these fabrications about “pollutants” in water, air and the foods we eat my blood level rises to dangerous levels and threaten my heart and blood vessels to my brain. And the drugs that I was prescribed had so many life threatening side effects I had to stop taking them. The anger level are also life threatening to my fellow human beings I have been known to lose my temper.
Ristvan have I got a case?

March 22, 2017 11:12 am

It’s doubtful we’ve seen the peak scare yet: 97% of climate scientists are trying to find another job. They should be encouraged to project their revenue through their own models. The closer it is to detection level, the higher the return in long term. Right?

March 22, 2017 11:34 am

1 in 113 lifetime risk for dying in an auto accident seems way too high. How was that number derived? The small sample of my personal experience suggest’s it is off by at least a factor of 10.

March 22, 2017 11:41 am

So my toothpaste is still more dangerous? Phew, I was worried for a second.

March 22, 2017 11:50 am

There must be a safe place without these nasty, man made dangers

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek
March 22, 2017 12:31 pm

“…the National Safety Council puts the lifetime risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash at 1 in 113; that’s 8,850 times greater than the alleged lifetime risk of contracting cancer from 0.07 ppb Cr-6 in water…”

The attribution of risk is exactly that, an attribution. This is the result of a calculation made by a committee. It is not a diagnosis, is everyone clear about that? It is a claim that a % of cancers (not deaths) may have been caused by Cr-6 in water.

Just because something has been ‘attributed’ does not mean that its risk is avoidable. If you knew for sure that the people who already were attributed to have a cancer risk led a life that is going to be replicated by other people going forward – which is just about impossible – then you could start to make claims about the avoidability of a cancer risk.

Because we have no idea what people consumed in the past nor what they will consume going forward, it is not possible, in any practical sense, to warrant that a ‘risk’ has been ‘avoided’. If you avoid driving, you could still be hit by someone a car while walking across a bridge.

The objectors to coal combustion used to make a great deal of noise out of uranium in the ash. It turns out that a) a little dose of radiation has been shown multiple times to confer health protection and b) that there is no evidence low doses (100 mSev, maybe 500) is harmful – cancers from radiation not being evident for years after exposure and difficult to attribute. Basically, the argument fell away as the mounting lack of evidence robbed alarmists of their hoped-for argument. Sitting in a concrete building exposes you to radiation from the aggregate in the concrete. So does standing outside.

Now we have Cr-6. Someone is selling a machine that can detect it at that level, that is my guess. Commercial interest.

We could still have dioxin – a naturally forming compound created in forest fires and other combustion. There are lots of things to shout about – after all, speculative attribution is a heck of a lot easier to do than trustworthy epidemiology.

James Bull
March 22, 2017 12:38 pm

This is the same EPA that released thousands of gallons of highly contaminated water from an old mine and said it wasn’t a problem and there was nothing to worry about.

James Bull

Gary Pearse
Reply to  James Bull
March 22, 2017 1:55 pm

They may be right about that. This was a good test case to see what lasting harm the stupidity of the ‘remediation’ of mine seepage did.

Gary Pearse
March 22, 2017 1:51 pm

Maybe it was right the right call to disband the EPA entirely and leave it to the states, regardless that it did some good in the early days. It morphed into a tool that has nothing to do with the environment.

Speaking of parts per trillion. Lining up dollar bills to cover the national debt. Would reach the sun and half way back. One buck at ~15cm in length is one trillionth the way to the sun.

Svend Ferdinandsen
March 22, 2017 3:13 pm

“Equally important, an ability to detect a substance does not mean it poses a risk”
It is becoming more important than ever as the equipment gets more and more sensitive.
I have now with my newest equipment seen a toxic subtance that i have never seen before. Big headlines and a lot of the harm it could do if consumed in 1000 or more parts than found.
Even sea water contains so much Uran, that some concider to harvest it. Do you dare to swim again in the sea?
Those scientists should be more humble, and wait to reveal their findings untill they also know that it is harmfull. It is not enough that they have sen it and fear/expect, that it could maybe posess a risk in some circumstances.
What are scientists for, if not for quantifying the eventually perceived risks.
In fact you will find all the known substances of the periodic system and combinations in sea water.

Retired Kit P
March 22, 2017 9:20 pm

On my way home from a TVA nuke site, I went by the location of the Kingston coal ash spill after the cleanup was complete. What a beautiful place!

While I was doing work for TVA, I go the same info about safety and the environment yas TVA employees. The cost of the ash cleanup was greater than TMI.

There is risk in everything.

March 23, 2017 1:07 am

I understand that “pure” or distilled water (nothing but H2O) is actually quite bad for you…. Our water filter has a re-mineralizer for exactly that reason…. Are there standards for *minimum* levels of Calcium, Iron and other organic compounds in our water? Or could water companies pipe pure H2O to the unsuspecting consumer?

March 23, 2017 3:42 am

My question is, and has been for a long time, why has coal ash been banned for use in concrete and pavement manufacture? And thanks to damned work I see I am way late in this thread! 🙂 And thanks to stupid cows I am about ready to go back to bed.

Coal ash/cinder used to be used in a lot of different things, not just de-icing roads. EPA arbitrarily ended that practice because coal ash is dust contaminate, never mind once it is in a solid product it, well, is no longer dust. A simple physical fact the stuporgeniuses at EPA are clearly too stupid to figure out.

Jeff Alberts
March 23, 2017 5:09 pm

Here in Western Washington State, recent scares were all about coal dust from coal trains passing through the area. If you believed the alarmists, everyone in the region would end up with Black Lung.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 24, 2017 5:23 am

Seems they missed out on an excellent business opportunity, retro fitting coal hopper cars with retractable covers. No wonder they clamor for a universal welfare state.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  2hotel9
March 26, 2017 10:38 am

Doesn’t matter. Once you solve the first non-problem, 10 more non-problems crop up.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
March 26, 2017 5:35 pm

I know! And each one is a money making opportunity. Which is why leftards endlessly screech without end for a total welfare state, they don’t know how to make money, only steal it from real human beings.

March 23, 2017 11:45 pm

The activists in question seem to have forgotten that human life is a fatal sexually transmitted disease of varying virulence; ie, it takes out some a bit earlier than others and others a bit later. But nobody, nobody ever survives it.

Reply to  sophocles
March 24, 2017 5:21 am

Nobody makes it out of life alive.

Reply to  2hotel9
March 24, 2017 8:01 am

Birth and death are tricks of nature which is a-moral. Things happen simply because it “works”. Conversion is more difficult then building something new. Life exists because it was able to adapt to earth conditions.

Reply to  David
March 24, 2017 6:17 pm

“Conversion is more difficult then building something new” Yes. I do a lot of remodeling.

March 24, 2017 4:03 pm

“That’s 8,850 times greater than the alleged lifetime risk of contracting cancer from 0.07 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium (Cr-6) in water.”

That will be a result of the dreaded ‘Linear No Threshold’ model, whereby if a substance X is a risk at a concentration Y to a fraction Z of the population then even homeopathic levels of concentration of X will be harmful to a fraction of Z.

Hence, there are practically no substances whatsoever that are excluded from risk, which produces open-ended scope for producing regulations concerning the aforesaid substances and an exponentially increasing number of employees to ensure those regulations are enforced.

This new form of BS looks like the replacement for the rapidly failing AGW BS.

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