On the Risks of Leaving Coal Ash on the Banks of the Middle Fork
Faced with a plan to leave 3.3 million cubic yards of coal ash in leaking, unlined pits along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, Illinois' only National Scenic River, and no formal opportunity to voice public concerns over the plan, the Eco-Justice Collaborative, a local non-profit, hosted an independent forum to take public comments on the proposal.
With the assistance of local residents and support from elected representatives, EJC convened a “People’s Hearing” June 11, 2018, at Bremer Conference Center, Danville Area Community College.
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IEPA official talks plans for closing coal-ash pits near Middle Fork
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Hearings held over coal ash concerns
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People's 'Forum' focuses on National Scenic River
People's Hearing to Protect the Middle Fork
"What is the benefit to Vermilion County if Dynegy leaves its coal ash on the banks of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River? The recent merger of Dynegy and Vistra has resulted in a company with a combined net worth of $20 billion. Shouldn’t Dynegy be held accountable NOW for cleaning up its waste?"
Pam Richart, Co-Director, Eco-Justice Collaborative
"The main thing is, no matter what happens with the stability, I’ve used the “P” word, and that’s perpetuity. That stability has to be there in perpetuity, no matter what option. And we’ve been quite frank with Dynegy since the beginning on that. Even the bank stability that was put in on the New East Pond where the river was within two feet of the berm, that’s not really designed for “in perpetuity” without some kind of a pot of money to maintain that over time."
Rick Cobb, P.G., Deputy Division Manager, Division of Water Supplies
"I'm here tonight because I view myself and all of you as stakeholders in the Middle Fork. Because the natural treasures of the river belong to all of us. And I view Dynegy's coal ash as a threat to those treasures every day it remains in the floodplain."
Rob Kanter, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Earth, Society, and Environment, UIUC
"What’s left is essentially a toxic waste dump - not in the sense that you picture it with the big oil cans and things, but the groundwater is unsafe to drink, nothing in the vicinity is safe to drink, and the people who are ultimately responsible for that are the taxpayers. At a certain point you either decide to leave it a sacrifice zone that nobody can use for anything, or you clean that up."
Abel Russ, Attorney, Environmental Integrity Project
"So whether this issue is going to come to a head five days from now or whether its going to come to a head a hundred years from now really makes little difference, because the County taxpayer does not have the resources to locally deal with this issue. And that is why I was very happy to hear Mr. Cobb say that in the EPA’s final decision there has to be the “p” word, perpetuity."
Michael Marron, Vermilion County Board Chair
"We’re going to capitalize on that opportunity [for river-related recreation and tourism] at the City of Danville by building up our riverfront. That opportunity changes drastically if this issue is not resolved. Because when we set up for recreational opportunities we want to do so in a way that ensures long-term growth in our community through these tourism opportunities."
Scott Eisenhauer, Mayor of Danville
"Eventually, the river will reoccupy portions of its floodplain containing the ash pits. I guarantee you that. I guarantee you that. When? I can’t tell you. But I don't care what you 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
"Every time I’ve been there this year, and the year before that, and the year before that, the seeps are there. They’re flowing, and this year they look worse than ever."
Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer, Prairie Rivers Network
"It’s important to know that as the river moves and erodes its banks, if it also begins to remove the toe of the slope of the impoundment it’s really impacting the entire structure."
Mike Dudas, P.E., Dudas Engineering
"Over three years ago, when all of this happened to us in North Carolina and we had to rely on bottled water, I would never have thought that anyone would have to fight for clean water and clean air. Isn’t that a human right? Isn't that a natural thing? ... We shouldn't have had to think or fight for clean water or safe air, but we did."
Amy Brown, Belmont, NC
“It was like a really bad movie, What’s really almost hard to believe it has been nearly ten years and we have the same stories going on across the nation. My story is unique, but sadly it won’t be the last story with these consequences”.
Sarah McCoin, Harriman, TN