COAL ASH STORIES – COMMUNITY FORUMS
Thursday, June 25, 7pm to 8:30pm
Kickapoo Landing, Kickapoo State Park
Monday, June 29, 7pm to 8:30pm
Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ
615 West Wellington Avenue, Chicago
Organized by: Eco-Justice Collaborative
Co-Sponsors: Prairie Group of the Illinois Chapter of Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club (Illinois Chapter), Students for Environmental Concerns, and Working Films
Join us on Thursday, June 25 at Kickapoo Landing in Kickapoo State Park near Oakwood, Illinois or on June 29 at Wellington Avenue Church of Christ in Chicago, as we screen five short films that expose public health concerns, related policy, and community responses to this environmental injustice. The purpose of these events is to draw public and political attention to the toxic impact of coal ash on communities in Illinois and throughout the country. This is particularly important since Illinois is now in the process of creating rules for handling and disposing of this hazardous waste.
Coal ash, our country’s second largest waste stream, is the waste material left after coal is burned. It contains arsenic, mercury, lead, and over a dozen other heavy metals, many of them toxic. Coal ash has been linked to the four leading causes of death in the U.S. – heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and stroke.
Imagine being afraid to drink your water, take a bath, fish, or farm because your community is being poisoned by coal ash. According to Earthjustice, more than 200 lakes, rivers, streams and drinking water aquifers in this country already have been contaminated by coal ash. They say that the amount of toxic coal ash that has spilled in the U.S. in the last six years is more than 100 times the amount of oil that spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Hazards of Coal Ash in Illinois
Illinois generates over 4.4 million tons of coal ash every year and imports ash from six states, storing it at over 90 sites across the state.
Most coal ash is dumped in wet impoundments at power plants that hold millions of gallons of coal ash sludge, and that discharge coal pollution to nearby rivers and lakes. Coal ash also is dumped in coal mines and quarries, directly threatening groundwater and air. Since 2009, when Illinois EPA first required groundwater data to be collected at power plants, contamination from coal ash pollution has been found at every site investigated.
Waiting for Disaster
One of the films that will be screened was prepared by Eco-Justice Collaborative to expose the hazards of Dynegy’s three coal ash ponds, located upstream from Kickapoo Landing and along the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. This is Illinois’ only National Scenic River, and it is heavily used for recreation and fishing..
The old, unlined ash ponds are leaching harmful coal ash pollution into the Middle Fork, and the meandering river continues to erode the walls of these ponds. In spite of this, Dynegy has proposed a closure plan that would leave the ash dumps in the floodplain without addressing the ongoing pollution of the river. One only has to remember disasters like the Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina in 2014, and the massive 2008 ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee to know that this is unacceptable and places the river and those who live downstream at risk.
Learn about the issues, and talk with friends, colleagues and issue experts, including journalist and film director Rhiannon Fionn; Tyler Rotche, Water Policy Specialist; Prairie Rivers Network (June 25 event); and Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Sierra Club (June 29 event). Learn what you can do to:
- Call on the Illinois EPA to create strong rules for the handling and disposal of coal ash.
- Urge local, state and regional decision makers to act with and on behalf of their constituents to support complete closure and cleanup of Dynegy’s ash ponds to preserve the health of Illinois’ only National Scenic River and the communities that depend on it