CASPER — Mixing fresh water and Powder River Basin coal ash together yields a slurry full of contaminants at levels dangerous to human health, new research from Duke University found. The dusty waste produced when power plants burn coal is often disposed in dry landfills or ponds, including at several facilities across Wyoming.

Scientists at the Nicholas School of the Environment tested the toxicity of coal fly ash from several major coal basins, including the Powder River Basin. The preliminary results revealed that combining coal fly ash with water produces a concoction replete with hexavalent chromium, arsenic and other chemicals. In the study, Powder River Basin coal ash hosted the highest concentrations of hexavalent chromium. The contaminant is considered “carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization.

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