New report: CPS Energy’s Calaveras Power Station among nation’s top water polluters

Media Contacts
Luke Metzger

Executive Director, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

Chromium discharges into Calaveras Lake pose potential risk to public health 

SAN ANTONIO — CPS Energy’s Calaveras Power Station ranked 10th in the nation for the toxicity of its reported releases to waterways, as measured by EPA’s toxicity scoring for such pollution, according to a new report by Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. Environmental and health advocates warned that the company’s discharges of chromium into Calaveras Lake threaten the health of anglers, boaters and people who eat fish from the lake.

“This information is alarming. A lot of people spend a lot of time on Calaveras Lake fishing, boating and hanging out,” said Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger. “CPS Energy needs to shut down the polluting coal plant as soon as possible and stop dumping toxic chemicals into the lake.”

The Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report is based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) for 2020. Industrial facilities self-report to the TRI how much toxic material they release into surface waters. According to reports filed by CPS Energy, the company discharged 72,494 pounds of toxic chemicals, including chromium compounds, into Calaveras Lake and to “storm water” in 2020.

Some chemicals pose more risk to human health than others and some discharges pose a higher potential risk for human exposure. According to EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model, CPS discharges pose the 10th highest potential risk from industrial water pollution to public health in the nation. Calaveras’s score for its water discharges is more than 1,000 times higher than the median of power plants nationwide, suggesting its releases are much more potentially damaging to human health as those of a typical power plant.

While CPS Energy’s report doesn’t say what kind of chromium it discharged, EPA’s toxicity modeling assumes some of it is hexavalent chromium or chromium-6, a chemical linked to cancer,  gastrointestinal, hematological and respiratory orders and infertility.

“The EPA and public health experts have found that ingesting chromium in drinking water, even in minute amounts, is associated with incidence of cancers of the mouth and stomach as well as respiratory issues, including asthma and chronic respiratory disease,” said Adelita G. Cantu, PhD, RN, FAAN, of Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Coal ash disposal sites have been found to be a major pathway for the release of chromium into groundwater and leaching into drinking water. Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility calls on governing bodies to keep this dangerous chemical out of drinking water by regulating coal ash waste as a hazardous waste and ensuring its safe disposal.”

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Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is a non-profit organization which researches environmental issues, educates the public, and wins tangible results for a greener future.