Coal Ash

 

 

Gallagher Generating Station, New Albany © 2016 BlairPhotoEVV

 

After coal is burned, the ash left over contains toxic heavy metals that contaminate rivers and groundwater, including sources of drinking water.

Image by Alan Morin for the Clean Air Task Force

News

July 18, 2018 – EPA Weakens Coal Ash Rule

Yesterday the EPA announced that it had finalized phase one of its rollback of the coal ash rule.

The EPA’s changes to the coal ash rule set Indiana up for more groundwater contamination,  a reduction in the number of contaminated sites that get cleaned up, slower cleanups for those that do, and a higher risk of coal ash spills.  The administration in Washington is promoting these changes as increased flexibility for the states, but prior to the first coal ash rule in 2015 the states had 100% flexibility and in Indiana that was disastrous.

Decades of regulatory inaction on coal ash disposal has left Indiana with a toxic legacy of serious groundwater contamination – with unsafe levels of arsenic,  lead, boron, and radium, among other contaminants — confirmed at fifteen disposal sites in Indiana located on the shores of the White River, the Wabash River, Kankakee River, the Ohio River and Lake Michigan.  It is simply negligent for the EPA to roll back the long-overdue federal coal ash standards that the agency adopted in 2015.  This will result in this pollution being left in place to continue contaminating our waterways and drinking water sources for many years to come

 

May 1, 2018 – Indiana Groups Respond to EPA’s Proposal to Weaken Coal Ash Rule

March 15 the EPA proposed to rollback rules on coal ash disposal, and then did all they could to minimize opportunities for public input.  They shortened the usual 90-day comment period to 45 days and held only one public hearing.  HEC’s Dr. Indra Frank traveled to Washington, DC, to testify at the hearing April 24.

HEC joined with the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, and the Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper to draft comments opposing weakening the coal ash rule.  Our comments asked EPA to

  • maintain protections for ground and surface water
  • maintain safety standards for ash disposal sites
  • and maintain transparency on coal ash disposal

Background

Coal ash was exempt from most waste disposal laws until the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule (CCR Rule) in 2015. The CCR Rule added protection of water resources from coal ash.  Now that the EPA is under a new administration, it is proposing to significantly rollback the 2015 rule, including:

  • Allowing operators of coal ash ponds and landfills to write their own standards for groundwater protection
  • Making cleanup of contamination optional
  • Eliminating the requirement to act if an ash pond contaminates groundwater
  • Eliminating the ban on coal ash disposal in unsafe areas like wetlands, floodplains, or fault zones
  • Allowing political appointees instead of professional engineers to determine whether a cleanup is required or adequate

March 2018 – Coal Ash Impacting Groundwater

The utilities have just released reports on new groundwater monitoring at coal ash sites.  Important information for private well owners.

After coal is burned for electricity, there is ash left over. Unfortunately, coal contains traces of heavy metals that are more concentrated in the ash after the carbon is burned off.  When coal ash is in contact with water, or water from rain or snow runs through it, the water can become contaminated with heavy metals.

Coal ash was exempt from waste handling laws in the United States until 2015. The rule established in 2015 (known as the CCR or Coal Combustion Residuals Rule) had a number of requirements including one to check groundwater under coal ash storage sites.  The first round of groundwater data had to be made public no later than March 2, 2018.

There are 15 power plants in Indiana with coal ash landfills, coal ash ponds, or both that are subject to the CCR Rule. Each of those 15 plants have between 1 and 4 groundwater reports.  The reports vary in length between 24 and 2500 pages.

As of this writing, the Hoosier Environmental Council has not completed its evaluation of this massive amount of groundwater data, but we have seen enough to confirm that where ever coal ash is stored without a liner under it, the groundwater beneath is contaminated.  See examples of findings from those reports here.

Links to the utilities’ reports.

Map of Indiana coal ash sites.

 

June 2017

Read our news release and coalition comments on Duke Energy’s proposed closure plans for its Cayuga, Gallagher, Gibson, and Wabash River Generating Stations’ coal ash lagoons.

And read the technical reviews for Cayuga, Gallagher, Gibson(north), Gibson (south) and Wabash River Stations.

 

December 2016

Read our fact sheets on IPL’s risky and environmentally-unsound plans to close their coal ash lagoons at the Harding Street Generating Station and the Eagle Valley Generating Station here:

Harding Street Generating Station

Eagle Valley Generating Station

 

Read NUVO’s in-depth report on the contamination concerns at IPL’s Harding St. power plant coal ash lagoons.

 

2015  Why is coal ash an environmental problem? 

Over 100 million tons of coal ash are generated every year in the United States.  Much of this ash is dumped in surface impoundments — lagoons and ponds — that are located directly above floodplain aquifers and built without liners or other protection for these groundwater resources which are often used for drinking water by nearby residents.  Indiana has more of these coal ash lagoons — 84 in total — than any other state.   Because of the lax requirements for coal ash disposal, spills and groundwater pollution have occurred in many places.  When it comes into contact with water, coal ash leaches dangerous levels of toxic contaminants, including arsenic, mercury, chromium and selenium.

Two new U.S. EPA rules, the CCR Rule and ELG Rule, will provide for greater oversight of coal ash disposal, but citizens including HEC and our supporters must continue to be vigilant in monitoring and shaping state and federal coal ash regulation.

 

HEC releases report on the coal ash ponds at Vectren’s Posey County power plant.  

Read: Coal Ash at A.B. Brown & Public Health — Executive Summary

Read the full report:  Coal Ash at A.B. Brown & Public Health.

aerial view of AB Brown by Blair

Coal ash ponds at A.B. Brown Power Plant near Evansville.  © 2016 BlairPhotoEVV

 

Are the coal ash lagoons at Indiana’s power plants complying with new U.S. EPA rules governing coal ash disposal at lagoons and landfills?  Find out at these electric utility web pages where the power plants report on their compliance actions:

Indianapolis Power and Light

Harding Street Generating Station

Eagle Valley Generating Station

Petersburg Generating Station

Duke Energy

Gibson Generating Station

Cayuga Generating Station

Wabash River Generating Station

Gallagher Generating Station

Vectren

A.B Brown Generating Station

F.B. Culley Generating Station

American Electric Power

Rockport Generating Station

Tanner’s Creek Generating Station

Northern Indiana Public Service

Schahfer Generating Station

Michigan City Generating Station

Bailly Generating Station

Indiana-Kentucky Electric Co.

Clifty Creek Generating Station

Hoosier Energy

Merom Generating Station

Ratts Generating Station 

 

 

 

 

For a complete overiew of coal ash in Indiana, read HEC’s “Our Waters at Risk” Report.  

Our Waters At Risk: the Health and Environmental Threats from Coal Ash Disposal in Indiana, with a Closer Look at the Coal Ash Ponds at IPL’s Harding Street Station
CLICK HERE to access the executive summary
CLICK HERE to access the full report
CLICK HERE to access the appendices

 

Read HEC and partners’ comments on IDEM’s proposed coal ash disposal plan here.    More information on IDEM’s plan can be found here.

Read the latest news on IDEM’s proposed coal ash disposal plan.

 

Nine Organizations Call on County Health Department to Use Its Authority to Compel IPL to Carry Out Comprehensive Groundwater Testing at At-Risk Lagoons

CLICK HERE to read the letter.

HEC Fact Sheet: What we know about groundwater contamination at the IPL Harding  Street coal ash lagoons

CLICK HERE to view IDEM water sample.

CLICK HERE to view 1989 groundwater results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Town of Pines, Indiana, is a tragic example of the toxicity of coal ash and improper disposal.  In 2002, the Town of Pines was declared a federal Superfund site, due to contaminated groundwater from coal ash in a nearby unlined landfill and the use of coal ash to build roads and as fill around the town.  Read “Not in My Lifetime: The Fight for Clean Water in the Town of Pines, Indiana.”

Check out an interactive map of coal ash spills and contaminated sites.