FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Marianne Holland
August 11, 2014 (317) 702-4847
Nine Organizations Call on County Health Department to Use Its Authority to Compel IPL to Carry Out Comprehensive Groundwater Testing at At-Risk Lagoons
(INDIANAPOLIS)- Nine statewide and county-wide organizations representing health, environmental, neighborhood, consumer rights, religious, and social justice missions gathered today on the south side of downtown, with Indianapolis Power and Light’s Harding Street power plant as the backdrop, calling on the Marion County Public Health Department to require the electric utility company to resume groundwater testing at its eight coal ash lagoons located at the power plant.
The lagoons, totaling more than 75 acres in size, contain coal ash sludge, a contaminant-laden byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity. The lagoons are located along the White River and above a large aquifer that supplies drinking water to both nearby neighborhoods — some of which still rely on well water — as well as to the city’s water utility, Citizens Water. Seven of the eight ash lagoons are unlined, meaning there’s no barrier between the toxic metals that readily leach from the coal ash lagoons and the underlying groundwater.
“Given the evidence of historic contamination underneath the Harding Street ash lagoons — with toxic mercury, arsenic, and boron found at concentrations as much as twenty times above safe levels — new, broad-based groundwater sampling is urgently needed to determine the level of contamination today and find out if contamination is putting nearby drinking water wells at risk,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council. “This need for new sampling has been reinforced by a recent water sample taken by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management at the adjacent gravel quarry, which suggests that contamination underneath the IPL coal ash lagoons continues today.”
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coal ash, when it comes in contact with water, has been shown to leach toxic metals at levels harmful to human health including mercury and arsenic.
“IPL was not held accountable for the contamination reported over 20 years ago, and since that time no state or local agency has required IPL to monitor at their coal ash lagoons or ensure that the lagoons are maintained in a safe condition,” noted Jodi Perras, Indiana representative of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
In a joint letter to the Marion County Public Health Department (MCHD), the nine organizations urge the health department to use its authority to enforce local ordinances that require that certain types of lagoons, such as those that IPL owns, must monitor groundwater for contaminants, report the data to the health department quarterly, and take action to remediate any pollution that’s occurring.
A new billboard warning passersby about the hazards of coal ash storage in downtown Indianapolis was also unveiled at the press conference. The billboard, which shows a bucket of dirty water next to a little girl drinking from a water fountain and reads “Coal Ash and Drinking Water Don’t Mix”, is located within view of southbound travelers on South Harding Street as they pass the IPL Harding Street Generating Station.*
The Marion County Public Health Department is conducting expanded water well testing in neighborhoods nearby the power plant, including sampling for coal ash contaminants, and their analysis of results is continuing.
Signatories to the letter to the MCHD are the Indiana Public Health Association, Hoosier Environmental Council, League of Women Voters of Indiana, Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Sierra Club-Beyond Coal Campaign, Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light, Citizens Action Coalition, and Earth Charter Indiana.
*NOTE TO REPORTERS/PHOTOGRAPHERS: Hi-resolution billboard images are available upon request. Contact Marianne Holland if you would like to have the files sent to your news organization.
CLICK HERE to learn more about coal ash in Indiana
About Hoosier Environmental Council: Founded thirty years ago, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) is the largest statewide environmental policy organization in Indiana. HEC aims to set a new path for Indiana, embracing practices and policies that dramatically reduce the footprint of transportation, industry, commerce, and agriculture on the environment. Visit hecweb.org for more information. You can follow HEC’s activities on Twitter: @hec_ed, and on Facebook at facebook.com/hecweb.