University of Illinois students stopped by Eco-Justice Collaborative’s booth at the University’s annual Quad Day to talk about the campaign to protect the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River from coal ash pollution.
This short video was taken by Lan Richart of Eco-Justice Collaborative in April 2016 while kayaking past Dynegy’s three coal ash pits. Two are unlined and leaking. One is lined, but sits over mine voids. All three are in the floodplain, and abut river banks that are severely eroding, raising concerns for a potential breach.
Lan and Pam Richart, of Champaign-based Eco-Justice Collaborative, took this picture of bank erosion along the Middle Fork River. Up and over the eroding bank are ash ponds on Dynegy’s former power plant site, which is upstream from Kickapoo State Park. The Richarts and other concerned citizens believe the coal ash in the ponds is contaminating the river, but Dynegy officials argue that the ash ponds are structurally stable.
The Vermilion Middle Fork, one of the country’s “National Scenic RIvers”, is a swift-flowing river winding through lush forests, rolling prairie and craggy cliffs in central Illinois. But the river’s banks butt up against three massive pits filled with toxic coal ash produced over five decades by the Vermilion coal-fired power plant, which closed in 2011 and is still owned by the power company Dynegy.
“This isn’t coal country. Not anymore. The coal still comes out of the ground, but without many workers.”
Coal mining is a changing industry, and more and more it’s leaving its workers behind. This story illustrates that point, but also serves as a reminder that while the coal industry phases out, we need to be compassionate and cooperative with the communities that will be impacted by it’s absence.
In his latest TED talk Al Gore, founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, poses three questions that will determine the future of our planet. He explains why – even in the face of rising seas and melting glaciers – we can dare to dream of a safe and sustainable future planet.