Transportation Trucks rail and barges used for transporting coal all affect air and water quality The environmental and health impacts of blowing coal dust there is also the air pollution from the vehicles themselves Chen and Sable 1982 4 3 3 Coal fired power generation Coal fired power plants which emit more than 60 different hazardous air pollutants Despite billions of dollars for investment scientists are unable to remove harmful emissions from factories completely Pollution from coal fired power stations which is released in four main ways Chen and Sable 1982 As fly ash from the smokestack bottom ash which stays at the bottom after the coal is burned waste gases from the scrubber units which are chemical processes used to remove some pollutants and gas released into the air i SO2 Sulphur dioxide and NOX nitrogen oxides Coal fired power plants produce large quantities of both SO2 and NOx which is the critical pollutants in the formation of acid rain
Acid rain acidifies water bodies and harms forest and coastal ecosystems SO2 and NOX contribute to the creation of particulates see below NOX helps form of ozone smog and nitrates Ozone impairs lung function also reduces the yields of many economically important crops Nitrate deposition over enriches water bodies causing algal blooms that kill fish and reduce biodiversity ii Particulates fine particles Coal fired power plants are one of the significant sources of particulate pollution Many of scientific studies that have shown which raised levels of particulates to result in both increased illness and premature death which is from heart and lung disorders such as asthma and bronchitis A recent study also found that particulate pollution from US power plants cuts short the lives of almost 24 000 people a year The most significant share of particulate emissions comes not from direct emissions but from the conversion of SO2 and NOX into fine particle sulfate and nitrate in the atmosphere iii Trace Elements Coal contains numerous persistent bioaccumulative trace elements which released during combustion and end up in the atmosphere and water bodies These include mercury dioxins arsenic radionucleotides cadmium and lead 4 3 4 CO2 Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel emitting 72 more climate changing CO2 per unit of energy than gas There are no commercially available technologies to capture and store CO2 Such technology is costly and will not be available for at least 20 30 year 4 3 5 Coal Combustion Waste CCW CCW like fly and bottom ash and captured pollutants pollution which has been removed during the coal burning is typically disposed in landfill sites or sold for industrial uses
For example Huntly power station sells some of its waste for use in cement Regardless of how CCW is disposed of there is a risk of toxic metals leaching into nearby surface and groundwater People whoever drink over a period of years on an average amount of water contaminated with CCW have a higher risk of cancer Keating 2001 Clean coal is a myth Everything to do with coal from mining in combustion to waste disposal through all the intervening processes and adversely affect public health and the environment Increased reliance on coal will invariably result in the increased release of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere Chen and Sable 1982 4 4 Impact on Ecosystem Coal is dust which stirred up during the mining process and released during coal transport this can cause both severe and potentially deadly respiratory problems Coal sludge which is also known as a slurry and the liquid coal waste which is generated by washing coal Often typically disposed of at impoundments located near coal mines but in some cases it is directly injected into abandoned underground mines Since coal sludge contains toxins leaks or spills can endanger underground and surface waters Floods like the Buffalo Creek Flood caused for both mountaintop removal mining failures of coal mine impoundments Mountaintop removal mining which caused forest destruction Mountaintop removal mining that has been destroyed 6 8 of Appalachia s forests according to a 2010 study According to a 2010 study greenhouse gas emissions which caused by surface mining mountaintop removal mining also releases large amounts of carbon through clearcutting and burning of trees and releases of coal in soil brought to the surface through mining operations
These greenhouse gas emissions amount to at least 7 of conventional power plant emissions Loss or degradation of groundwater Since coal seams are always served as underground aquifers removal of coal beds which may result in drastic changes in hydrology after mining has been completed Radical disturbance of 8 4 million acres of farmland rangeland and forests most of which has not been reclaimed Methane released by coal mining accounts for about 10 percent of US releases of methane CH4 a potent global warming gas Mountaintop removal mining and different forms of surface mining can lead to the drastic alteration of landscapes and destruction of habitat It also damages to water supplies and air pollution Not all of these effects can be adequately addressed through coal mine reclamation Water consumption from coal plants Power generation that has been estimated to be second only to agriculture in being the most significant domestic user of water Water pollution from coal includes the adverse health and environmental effects of the mining processing burning and waste storage of coal Sourcewatch org 2018
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