Coal ash is the material left after burning coal.
It contains heavy metals that contaminate water. Indiana has been producing millions of tons of coal ash per year for decades, much of which is stored in the floodplains of rivers or Lake Michigan.
EPA Takes Important Steps to Reduce Coal Ash Pollution
On January 11, 2022, the EPA released documents that clarify important portions of the federal coal ash rule (the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule or CCR Rule). These clarifications will put an end to the attempts we have seen in Indiana to dodge the rule by misinterpreting it. The net result of EPA’s clarifications will be less coal ash pollution in Indiana.
Coal Ash in the 2022 Legislative Session
While EPA has clarified the coal ash requirements on the federal side, a bipartisan group of Indiana legislators are working to require safe coal ash disposal in state law. They have introduced bills in both the Indiana House and Senate for the 2022 legislative session. Passage of these bills will ensure continued safe disposal in Indiana even if future administrations in Washington DC attempt to change the federal coal ash rule. See HEC’s Bill Watch 2023 page for the latest.
2020 Report Shows Indiana Lags Far Behind in Coal Ash Cleanup
In 2014 the Hoosier Environmental Council published Our Waters at Risk about the impact of coal ash on Indiana’s water resources. In the years that followed, a good deal more information became public. Read HEC’s 2020 report, which updates what is known about coal ash and Indiana’s water resources.
Download Our Waters At Risk Part 2
Download executive summary of Our Waters at Risk Park 2
The Hoosier Environmental Council’s work on coal ash receives generous support from the Energy Foundation, the Herbert Simon Family Foundation, the McKinney Family Foundation, and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
Coal ash must be disposed of without putting our water resources at risk.
Testing Your Well
In Indiana, there is no regulation of private well water. Well owners are responsible for their own safety when using private well water.
To be on the safe side, HEC recommends getting a well tested if it is within one mile of a coal ash disposal site. The water should be tested for Arsenic, Boron, Cobalt, Lead, Lithium, Molybdenum and Radium. Almost every coal ash disposal site examined so far had exceedances of at least one of these health-based standards in the groundwater. View the complete list of potential coal ash contaminants. Nitrate and bacteria don’t come from coal ash, but as long as you are testing your well, test for them, too. It is important to test wells for nitrate and bacteria regularly.
Coal Ash at Duke Energy Gallagher Generating Station.
On the banks of the Ohio River, in the shadow of Floyds Knobs outside of New Albany, sit eight coal ash disposal sites – 7 surface impoundments (ponds) and one coal ash landfill — containing about 9 1/2 million tons of toxic coal ash. Groundwater has infiltrated the lower levels of the unlined Gallagher Generating Station surface impoundments, saturating the ash, and contaminating the underlying aquifer. The shallow aquifer at this location exchanges water with the Ohio River, so the coal ash contaminants are flowing into the river.
Learn more about coal ash at the Gallagher power plant.
Groundwater monitoring shows that where ever coal ash is stored without a protective liner under it, it contaminates the groundwater.
The 2015 rule required the utilities to check groundwater under coal ash disposal sites. The first round of groundwater data had to be made public no later than March 2, 2018.
View the Hoosier Environmental Council review of all of the 2018 groundwater reports. The data show that where ever coal ash is stored without a liner under it, the groundwater beneath is contaminated.
The federal rule on coal ash disposal should be protective of human health and the environment.
Coal ash was exempt from most waste disposal laws until the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule (CCR Rule) in 2015. Since there were no requirements prior to 2015, power companies disposed of the ash in the least expensive manner. Ash was placed in unlined landfills and ponds right next to the power plants. Coal-fired power plants need a source of cooling water, so the Indiana plants are located along Lake Michigan or the White, Kankakee, Wabash or Ohio Rivers. Therefore, most of the coal ash is disposed of in the floodplains of Lake Michigan and the rivers.
HEC is advocating for an Indiana rule on coal ash disposal that is protective of human health and the environment.
Shortly after the EPA promulgated the 2015 CCR Rule (coal ash rule), the Indiana Environmental Rules Board adopted the portion of the EPA’s rule on coal ash ponds verbatim into Indiana’s solid waste management rules.
IDEM is currently working on a second draft.
Former Tanner’s Creek Generating Station Update
Read the most recent public reports and filings about this former Indiana & Michigan Power/AEP coal-fired generating station along the Ohio River in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
The Tanner’s Creek Power Plant ceased producing electricity in May 2015. Since then the property was sold to Commercial Development Company, Inc (doing business as Tanners Creek Development LLC), which assumed responsibility for the coal ash. Tanners Creek Development hopes to use the site to build a new port for Indiana on the Ohio River. Testing to date shows that the groundwater at the site is contaminated with boron, arsenic, and manganese. Water supply wells nearby serve the City of Aurora and the Lawrenceburg, Manchester and Sparta Townships Conservancy District and are at risk from the coal ash. Read recent documents on the Tanners Creek clean up.
Michigan City Coal Ash
NIPSCO is now required by federal law to decide on final disposal of the ash in the Michigan City ash ponds. This final disposal is referred to as “closure”. Their plan is to dig out the ash ponds and send the ash to the Schahfer landfill in Jasper County. A coalition of public interest groups submitted comments about the closure to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and public comment may be submitted through May 22, 2020. Learn more about Michigan City Coal Ash.