Links to Each Report
Riverbank erosion continues to move the river channel toward embankments that hold 2.8 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash. The report by Stantec Consulting Services Inc. shows the erosion rate at the North and Old East pits to be from 2.5 to 9 times greater than previous estimates.
Of the 1,700 feet of riverbank that was evaluated by Stantec, 775 feet have already eroded to a point where there is insufficient space between the river’s edge and the toe of the slope of the coal ash embankment to accommodate construction equipment. An additional 550 feet may be inaccessible due to deteriorating gabions. In these sections, installing options for riverbank stabilization proposed by Stantec may require some combination of the following:
- Cutting into and regrading the embankment that holds back the coal ash;
- Reconstructing a portion of the riverbank lost to erosion (which would require fill in the river’s channel); and/or
- Working with a long-reach backhoe from the river.
The ability to move forward with options for riverbank stabilization that have been proposed by the consultant is not yet clear, and requires approvals by state and federal agencies. If approved and constructed at one time, the 1,700 feet of armoring will take six to eight months to complete and would need to be constructed during the summer recreation season.
There are no state requirements that obligate Dynegy-Midwest Generation to post a bond or otherwise guarantee that money would be available for long-term monitoring, maintenance or cleanup in the event of a coal ash spill. If Dynegy goes bankrupt as they did in 2012, taxpayers could be saddled with future costs. Even if Dynegy sells the property to another owner, there are no guarantees that future liabilities will be met without taxpayer intervention.
In September of 2014, the Illinois EPA formally asked Dynegy to provide a complete cost analysis of each closure option for the North Ash Pond and the Old East Ash Pond. In addition to various cap and leave options, Dynegy was asked to evaluate alternatives for removing the ash and placing it in an on-site or off-site landfill.¹
On November 30, 2017, Dynegy submitted its Closure Options Report to the IEPA. The report was not detailed and did not address relocating the ash to an on-site landfill. The six-page report consisted of a simple table and graphic illustrations showing five proposed closure options.³
- Three of the options were variations of “cap and leave” proposals.
- One involved all or partial removal of the ash for recycling.
- One depicted coal ash relocation to an unidentified off-site landfill.
Cost estimates ranged from $29 to $43 million for the “cap and leave” alternatives. The cost for recycling all or part of the ash ranged from $33 to $145 million, while the removal option was priced at $192 million. In each case, an additional $3 to $3.5 million was estimated for riverbank stabilization.² No details to support these estimates were provided.
River advocates have been calling on IEPA to assess the feasibility of on-site relocation since 2012. In September of that year, shortly after the IEPA issued Dynegy a Notice of Violation of Class I Groundwater Standards, Prairie Rivers Network submitted a concept plan prepared by a civil engineer to IEPA illustrating an option for on-site containment in a lined, upland location. The concept was accompanied by a three-page spreadsheet detailing unit costs and quantities for labor, material and equipment. Five years later, neither Dynegy nor the IEPA have formally responded to this submittal.
¹ Letter from IEPA to Dynegy Operating Company, September 11, 2014.
² Stantec Consulting Services. 2017. Ash Pond Closure Options Report, Table 1 - Closure Options Summary
³ An IEPA representative confirmed that Dynegy’s submittal did not include quantities, unit costs, calculations or any details necessary to independently evaluate the accuracy of the cost estimates.