The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has called for rules to ensure the safe disposal and management of coal ash from coal-fired power plants.

Coal combustion residuals, commonly known as coal ash, are by-products of the combustion of coal at power plants and are disposed of in liquid form at large surface impoundments and in solid form at landfills.

The residuals contain contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, which are associated with cancer and various serious health hazards.

The EPA’s risk assessment and damage cases show how contaminants can leach into groundwater and migrate to drinking water sources.

The proposals will see that protective controls such as liners and groundwater monitoring are in place at new landfills to protect groundwater and human health.

According to the rules, existing surface impoundments will need liners with strong incentives to close the impoundments and transition to safer landfills to store coal ash in dry form.

The EPA also plans to promote environmentally safe and desirable forms of recycling coal ash as a part of the proposals.