Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Emily Rosenwasser

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Today, Springfield residents and statewide coal ash experts stood before the Springfield City Council to outline upcoming deadlines CWLP must reach to meet new coal ash waste standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CWLP disposes of coal ash – the  waste left behind from burning coal –  in unlined ponds at the Dallman coal-fired power plant in Springfield. According to the U.S. EPA, coal ash contains high levels of harmful heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, and selenium. Coal ash at Dallman is stored in unlined open pits, also known as ash ponds, that leak contaminants into groundwater.

According to the US EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) tool, the Dallman plant has violated its Clean Water Act permit limits several times since April 2012 at one of its coal ash ponds. Groundwater monitors at the Dallman coal plant have recorded unsafe levels of arsenic, boron, iron, manganese and sulfate.

In October 2015, U.S. EPA standards to protect communities from dangerous coal ash came into effect. Under these new standards, coal ash impoundments that are unlined and have documented and dangerous groundwater impacts require closure. The Dallman coal plant’s ash ponds meet both of those criteria.

“Armed with information that Dallman’s ponds are unlined and leaking, it is the city’s fiduciary obligation to move as quickly as possible to close the ash ponds. Anything less would amount to a knowing and willing perpetuation of a public health threat that is simply unacceptable,” said Terri Treacy with the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Now is the time to think beyond costly, risky coal. The citizens of Springfield are the owners of CWLP, and they have the right to be involved in the process for determining CWLP’s future.”

According to a 2013 study commissioned by CWLP by energy consultants Burns & McDonnell, compliance with new federal standards on coal ash disposal could cost the utility $33 million, with $27 million of that due before the end of 2020. That same study found that ceasing coal burning at Units 1 & 2 of the Dallman coal-fired power plant could save CWLP $9.9 million on new coal ash handling technology required by the new standard .

“Potential corrective action and closure requirements, new facility and landfill construction are all on the near-horizon for CWLP’s coal ash waste management. It is clear that smart planning should begin now — otherwise, it is very possible that the bill for these expenses could all be dropped on the citizens at Springfield without the budgeting needed to make it manageable,” said Tyler Rotche with Prairie Rivers Network. “. It’s time to engage Springfield’s stakeholders in the future of CWLP.”

“For over 50 years, coal ash has been collected and stored in ponds at the Dallman coal-fired power plants. We now know much more about the health hazards of coal than we did when these facilities were first built,” Lan Richart with Eco-Justice Collaborative. “The Dallman coal ash ponds represent a liability for the City of Springfield and a threat to human health and safety. We therefore call on CWLP to act expeditiously in cleaning up its leaking coal ash ponds and to embrace the new rules protecting the residents of Springfield from coal ash pollution.”

Under new federal coal ash rules, decisions about future operation of Dallman’s unlined and leaking ash ponds need to be made as soon as next year.

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