Note: Avner Vengosh is available for additional comment at (919) 491-6792 or

Dr. Avner Vengosh

DURHAM, N.C. – Avner Vengosh, a Duke University expert on the environmental impacts of coal ash, will testify at a Congressional briefing at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 25, about proposed amendments to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 Coal Ash Rule.

The briefing will be in room 485 of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Vengosh, who has published 13 widely cited peer-reviewed studies on coal ash, will tell Congressional members and staffers that the proposed changes will reduce long-term protection of drinking water supplies for communities living near coal ash ponds and landfills.

He said the rule changes would also undermine cleanup efforts at sites where contamination has occurred.

The federal 2015 Coal Ash Rule requires utilities to monitor for groundwater contamination near coal ash ponds and landfills, and to make their data public. It also requires the closure and cleanup of ponds or impoundments when leaked contamination exceeds national drinking water standards or normal background levels.

“The amendments being proposed by the EPA will weaken these regulations by giving states and utilities the ability to set their own threshold at which unsafe contamination occurs. This means we’ll have no uniform standards for defining risks, or for specifying the time frame for action and post-leak monitoring,” says Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke’s Nicholas School of the environment.  

“Given the slow rate of flow of groundwater, unsafe levels of contaminants could remain in an affected aquifer for a long time, but these amendments allow the time frame for monitoring to be arbitrarily shortened – meaning people living near the leak will not have long-term protection,” he says.  

The proposed amendments also remove the requirement for utilities to publish water contamination data on the internet, “so the public will have no way of knowing what the risk that they face actually is,” Vengosh says.

Vengosh will also provide expert testimony on the proposed amendments at an EPA public hearing April 24 at the Double Tree by Hilton Hotel located at 300 Army Navy Drive in Arlington, Virginia. His testimony there is scheduled for 2 p.m.

To read Vengosh's full testimony click the link below.