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We Can't Stop the Middle Fork!
The Illinois EPA acknowledges that any closure plan approved for Vistra+Dynegy's coal ash pits has to address stability of the impoundments "in perpetuity".  But does a closure plan that includes riverbank stabilization, but leaves coal ash in the floodplain of Illinois' only National Scenic River, meet this criterion?

Bruce Rhoads, Ph.D. says no.  Dr. Rhoads is a fluvial geomorphologist who studies river flow dynamics.  During the June 11 People's Hearing held in Danville, he presented a sobering analysis of any proposal that would leave 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic waste in the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, a meandering river.

Eventually, the river will reoccupy portions of its floodplain containing the ash pits.  I guarantee you that. I can’t tell you when. But no matter what we do as human beings, we will not stop this river forever. We will not do it.
Bruce Rhoads, Ph.D., Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science, UIUC

 

 

The Middle Fork Is a Meandering River
Watch this video of Dr. Rhoads' presentation, in which he describes the characteristics of a meandering river as it moves across its floodplain. Dr. Rhoads explains that the Middle Fork's channel once occupied the land where the North Ash Pit now is located. While today, the river channel lies east of the ash pits, the Middle Fork is moving west, and has migrated 100 feet towards the Old East Ash Pit since 1940.

Gabions (wire cages filled with rocks) were installed in the 1980's by Illinois Power to protect the riverbanks next to the Old East and North Ash Pits from erosion.  But over the years, the natural force of the Middle Fork has ripped gabions off its river banks, leaving exposed wires and rocks in the river channel.  Now, this riverbank armoring is either in tatters or  totally absent, leaving large areas of bank next to the two oldest ash pits unprotected.  A February 2018 storm  further eroded and undercut the banks, increasing concerns over the long-term stability of Dynegy's coal ash impoundments.

Dynegy - Move Your Ash!
Can any solution, other than removing the coal ash, be counted on, long-term, to protect the river and people of Vermilion County who depend upon it for recreation, tourism and economic development?   No.  While it is true that monitoring, maintenance, and repair of riverbank stabilization may work in the short-term, long-term, the river will win.

Now is the time to make sure that Vistra+Dynegy is held accountable for responsibly dealing with its toxic waste.  If you haven't yet done so, tell the Illinois EPA to protect the fork, and become part of a growing number of people across the state working to protect Illinois' only National Scenic River from coal ash pollution and a possible breach that could send thousands of tons of toxic ash downstream.

3 comments on “We Can’t Stop the Middle Fork”

  1. MARGARET MILLER Reply

    The meeting was excellent. I appreciate the many perspectives offered.
    Thanks to all protecting our beautiful meandering Middle Fork.

    • pamelarichart1 Reply

      Thank you Margaret! We’ll be releasing videos of this informal hearing in the coming weeks, and hope they’ll be shared widely. They speak to the need to protect the Middle Fork as well as address the risks of leaving the coal ash in the floodplain. So glad you were able to attend!

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