The Problem - Dynegy's Coal Ash Is In the Middle Fork's Floodplain
Over 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash have been dumped in the floodplain of this scenic river. Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal, contains some of the most toxic substances known to humankind.
This pollution is associated with the operation of the coal-fired power plant on the west bank of the river. The plant, now owned by Dynegy-Midwest Generation, is closed. But the natural forces of the river threaten the river bank and abutting impoundments, raising concerns over a possible breach. Two of the three ponds are leaking, and the third sits over mine voids. Learn more about the threat to the river.
The Resource - Illinois' Only National Scenic River
The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River is Illinois’ first designated State Scenic River. It also is the state's only designated National Scenic River. These designations recognize the Middle Fork’s outstanding scenic, recreational, ecological and historical characteristics.
Ecological and Scenic Significance
The Middle Fork River has eroded through deep glacial deposits, exposing steep valley slopes, and high bluffs and hillsides with natural springs. Most of the area along the river is forested, but there are also several prairie sites. Three of these support plants and animals so rare that they are protected as State Nature Preserves.
The Middle Fork river valley supports a great diversity of plants and animals. They include 57 types of fish; 45 different species of mammals; and 190 kinds of birds. Twenty-four species are officially identified as State threatened or endangered.
And there are other qualities of the Middle Fork river valley that make it unique to Illinois. These include unusual geologic formations; several historic sites, and over 8,400 acres of public parks.
Illinois Law (Public Act 84-1257) and the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act give permanent protection to a 17-mile segment along both sides of the Middle Fork. Conservation easements are held by the state on all land it does not own. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources manages this protected river valley. The state nature preserves and state threatened or endangered species in the valley are protected by other state laws and programs.
Recreation and Historic Importance
The river system also provides the benefits of a strong recreation economy to Vermilion County. Kickapoo State Park, Kennekuk County Park, and the Middle Fork State Fish and Wildlife Area stand as key destinations for local residents and visitors, enjoyed for canoeing, kayaking and tubing; wildlife viewing; photography; hunting; angling; hiking; and horseback riding. Kickapoo Adventures, located in Kickapoo State Park, puts over 10,000 people on the Middle Fork River in canoes, kayaks and tubes each year.
A Source of Food
In addition to the river’s scenic, historic, and recreation importance, this stretch of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River provides a reliable source of food for some area residents. The loss of the manufacturing base in the nearby city of Danville has left many unemployed and living in a subsistence economy.
You Can Help Protect the Middle Fork!
Dynegy is seeking approval of their closure plan for these three coal ash pits from the Illinois EPA. Their plan is to cap them and leave them in the floodplain.
One easy way to take action now is to send an electronic letter to Governor Pritzker and Illinois EPA Director John Kim. Ask them to require Dynegy to move its coal ash from the floodplain to a properly-designed facility on its property, away from the river. Personalizing your letter will have the most impact.
Other states are requiring utility companies to relocate their ash, so why aren't we?