Coal Ash Pond in China

Photo | 18 March, 2014

An evening rainstorm partially obscures the Shentou Number 2 Power Plant in Shuozhou, Shanxi province, China. In the foreground lays its coal ash pond. Coal ash, the solid byproduct of burning coal, is China's largest source of solid waste. After burning, the chemical compounds in coal become far more concentrated in coal ash than in raw coal. Lab tests by Greenpeace found more than 20 different heavy metals and chemicals in the coal ash samples. Ash is carried by wind over long distances, the heavy metals seeps into groundwater as well as rivers, and can easily contaminate the food chain. More than 1,400 coal-fired power plants in China produce enough coal ash to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every 2.5 minutes. Over 375 million tons of coal ash are produced in a year.