Dynegy Agreed to Move Its Coal Ash!
Dynegy Midwest Generation has agreed to begin preparing plans for the removal of 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash generated by its Vermilion Power Station. The ash has been stored in the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River since the mid-1950’s and is currently leaking into the river and groundwater. In a statement released Tuesday, a Dynegy spokesperson wrote:
“While we believe certain closure alternatives without removal (e.g., hybrid approach of removing all of the ash from one of the impoundments, placing that ash into other on-site impoundments located further away from the river, and closing the impoundments with a robust cover system) is protective, given the unique nature of the site and to resolve the pending dispute with the State of Illinois, we have agreed to close all of the impoundments by removal.”
Illinois’ Only National Scenic River!
For years, Eco-Justice Collaborative and Prairie Rivers Network have called attention to the damaging pollution and grave threat at the site, underscoring the need to move the toxic coal ash out of the floodplain. EJC’s campaign to move the coal ash included working with agencies and elected officials, including State Senator Scott Bennett and State Representative Mike Marron; hosting Town Hall meetings and innumerable public presentations; organizing and hosting a “Peoples Hearing” when the IEPA refused to hold one; organizing for the IEPA’s water quality certification public hearing, attended by 300 people; as well as working with the Protect the Middle Fork Citizens Advisory Group to generate thousands of letters and petitions that pressured the IEPA to take legal action. On behalf of Prairie Rivers Network, Earthjustice brought two still-pending lawsuits – one in federal court, one before the Illinois Pollution Control Board – to demand that Dynegy comply with environmental laws and stop polluting Illinois’ only National Scenic River. Without the relentless advocacy of all three groups, Illinois EPA may never have taken action to protect the river and stop the pollution. The Illinois EPA issued Dynegy a violation notice in 2018 for pollution caused by the coal ash after EJC insisted the IEPA paddle the Middle Fork to see, first-hand, the impacts from the coal ash seeps on the river. That violation was referred to the Illinois Attorney General in May 2019, leading to today’s agreement.
Dynegy and the Illinois Attorney General’s office have agreed in an Interim Order to begin the process which will require Dynegy to develop a Safety Emergency Response Plan, dewater existing ponds, construct a groundwater collection trench to intercept contaminated water entering the groundwater and river, and begin monthly inspections to monitor and mitigate, if needed, progressive riverbank erosion. Dynegy is required to have plans ready for a public meeting on or before December 17, 2021.
Ongoing erosion, and a possible breach has been on of our key areas of concern. We have been in continuous dialog with agencies about that over the past few years, asking they address ongoing erosion, including an area along the river identified by Stantec Consulting Engineers, Inc. as requiring immediate action to prevent a breach of the Old East Ash Pit. The interim order requires monthly inspections of the riverbank and after significant storm events, and mandates temporary protection of riverbanks per an approved emergency response plan, where needed.Much work remains to monitor and make certain that Dynegy follows through with its agreement and to review plans to ensure that the ash is removed safely. But today we can savor the fruits of a long fight to protect the river and the communities who depend on it.Pam and Lan Richart, Co-Directors