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Victory! Dynegy Will Move Its Ash
Posted in the Public I on September 2021 by Pam and Lan Richart

Coal ash waste from the Vermilion Power Station has threatened the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River for decades. Photo by Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative..

No More “Cap and Run”
After a multi-year campaign calling for the clean-up of coal ash along the Middle Fork of the Vermilion, Illinois’ only National Scenic River, Dynegy Midwest Generation, owner of the coal ash, has finally agreed to move the contaminated material out of the floodplain. This is a huge victory for environmental advocates who have spent years pushing for a cleanup of the dangerous combustion waste produced at the Vermilion Power Station.

Over the course of 56 years, Dynegy and its predecessor, Illinois Power, deposited approximately 3.3 million cubic yards of this waste in three unlined pits adjacent to the river. Coal ash is the toxic waste material remaining after the burning of coal. It contains toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, selenium, cadmium and chromium. When these materials leach into surface and groundwaters, they contaminate drinking water and natural ecosystems. Coal ash pollutants can cause cancer, as well as damage to nervous systems and other organs, especially in children. Coal ash can also harm and kill wildlife, especially fish and other water-dwelling species.

Coal ash pollution from seeps pools in the river’s floodplain. Photo by Eco-Justice Collaborative

Lawsuit and Interim Order by the Attorney General’s Office
On June 22, 2021, the State of Illinois Attorney General’s Office issued a statement announcing its intention to file a lawsuit against Dynegy for the unlawful pollution of groundwater by coal ash chemicals associated with the site.

The attorney general’s statement also noted that they had filed an interim order, agreed to by Dynegy, that requires the utility to begin addressing the immediate causes of the problem. Dynegy subsequently release the following statement:

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.

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