Toxic coal ash sludge ponds are an environmental scourge everywhere coal is burned, and Colstrip power plant owners have agreed to stop pooling the sludge from its largest units before 2019, as part of a lawsuit settlement filed Thursday.  An estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water over 30 years seeping from Colstrip’s ash pond, has rendered the groundwater undrinkable for the Colstrip community.


The worst ingredient is “bottom ash,” a highly concentrated coal ash sludge that contains lead, arsenic, boron and other toxic chemicals that– according to medical, scientific and environmental publications– can cause liver, kidney, brain and testicular cancer.  Both the power plant and the Colstrip community depend on water piped in from the Yellowstone River, 30 miles away.  The ponds will continue to collect sludge, but removing bottom ash from the poisonous mixture will make it easier to deal with the pond seepage contaminating ground water.