Governor Pritzker has come out on the right side of protecting communities and our environment from coal ash pollution. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, he tweeted the following in response to an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune in January 2018 about coal ash and the Middle Fork:
Coal ash pollution is a threat to our environment and public health, and it’s time Illinois had a governor who is committed to protecting our environment. Unlike Bruce Rauner, that’s the type of leader I’ll be. – J.B. Pritzker
It’s time to remind him of Governor Pritzker of this commitment, and ask him to work with John Kim, Acting Director, Illinois EPA to require Dynegy-Midwest Generations to move its toxic ash from the floodplain of the Middle Fork, Illinois’ National Scenic River. That’s the only permanent solution for the leaking ash pits that are vulnerable to the natural forces of this meandering river.
Read the letter, below. Then add your contact information in the form to the right to access the letter and send. Personalizing the letter will have the greatest impact.
Dear Governor Pritzker and Acting Director John Kim, Illinois EPA:
I am writing to relay my concerns over the presence of a significant health and safety threat to the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, one of the most vibrant and ecologically-diverse rivers in the Midwest. It is Illinois’ National Scenic River, and has a regional recreational draw that boosts local economies. But over 3.3 million cubic yards of coal ash is stored in unlined, leaking pits in this river’s floodplain, and heavy metals and other toxic chemicals are flowing into the groundwater and river.
Coal ash can cause birth defects, cancer, and neurological damage in humans and can harm and kill wildlife. In 2012 and 2018 the Illinois EPA issued notices of violation to Dynegy for its contamination. But instead of moving the ash, Dynegy wants to cap its pits, build a 1/3-mile long wall consisting of rip-rap and other fill to protect its toxic waste, and permanently leave the coal ash in the river’s floodplain. Capping the coal ash pits won’t stop this pollution, since they are unlined. Governor Pritzker, the only way to stop the pollution is to tell Dynegy to move its toxic waste.
The Middle Fork is a meandering river that is moving west toward the coal ash pits. At one time, Illinois Power (who built the coal plant) considered moving the river channel to protect its ash pits. Instead, they installed gabions (wire cages with rock) to stop erosion. But the river has ripped these gibbons from the its banks, leaving them, once again, vulnerable to erosion.
Dynegy cannot cap its pits unless it also stabilizes adjacent riverbanks. But Dynegy is proposing a massive, 1/3-mile long project with over 22,000 cubic feet of fill, including rip-rap that will leave a visual scar on the otherwise natural river corridor. The project also will degrade water quality from excavation of the contaminated riverbed and riverbanks. And it will have devastating economic consequences for the operator of the canoe and kayak livery in Kickapoo State Park, because paddlers will be required to portage 2,000 feet or more around the construction site, and may not return.
Even the most robust bank stabilization will not last forever. The gabions put in place by Illinois Power began to disintegrate and fall apart after a few decades. Why should Vermilion County residents be left with a legacy of toxic coal ash, if an “armor, cap and leave” solution is approved? Who will pay for monitoring, maintenance, and repair of this stabilization project, after Dynegy leaves or potentially goes bankrupt? Who will pay for cleanup, in the event of a catastrophic spill?
The only way to protect the river from a potential coal ash spill is to move the ash far from the river, and to provide INTERIM, targeted stabilization now, as we enter another season of storm events. It will be many months before agencies complete their review of plans for both closing the ash pits and stabilizing the banks, and leaving these banks unprotected for another season leaves them vulnerable to a breach.
The Middle Fork is our only National Scenic River. Governor Pritzker, we want you to help us protect it. Tell Dynegy to move its ash!
Use the form below to write Governor Pritzker and IEPA Director Kim today. Urge them to stop the massive bank stabilization project proposed by Dynegy and require Dynegy to move its toxic waste away from the Middle Fork. Moving the ash is the only solution that will protect the river from ongoing pollution and communities from a catastrophic coal ash spill.