December 10, 2010
An excerpt from Prairie Rivers Network’s official letter to the USEPA regarding the proposed coal ash rule
On November 19th, 2010, Prairie Rivers Network submitted comments to the USEPA on their proposed regulation of coal ash. Illinois leads the nation in the number of coal ash contamination sites due to improper disposal, and the new rules are a long-awaited step toward reigning in this underregulated toxic waste.
With a coalition of partners, Prairie Rivers Network sent the EPA a strong message that citizens want to be protected from coal ash waste. The message was clear: Regulate coal ash with strong federally enforceable safeguards for public and environmental health. Read the full letter submitted here.
Here are a few choice excerpts taken from interviews with local residents that were submitted with the letter:
“A gentleman living in Douglas County near a site where fly ash is being used to ‘reclaim’ an abandoned mine impoundment has reported coal ash contamination of air and water to the Illinois EPA several times with no response. He has witnessed coal ash clouds so thick cars have had to stop on the road. A recent visit to the site for stream sampling revealed that there had been a recent mussel kill in the stream just ½ mile downstream of the dump; every fingernail clam seen was open and dead. Fly ash coated the surface of the stream and banks. The long-term “reclamation” plan is to fill the impoundment with 500,000 tons of ash and then cover with 2-4 feet of ‘non-acid producing cover material.’ As of March 2010, the impoundment was 70% full. Several households are downgradient of the UNLINED coal ash dump site and draw their water from wells finished in the sand and gravel lenses between ten to forty feet in depth. Many of these residents are experiencing various health problems and are beginning to wonder if they might have polluted drinking water.”
“In the heart of coal mining country in Randolph County, at Peabody’s Gateway Coulterville Mine… Leonard and Jeannette are farmers—they worry about the leaking gob and ash pile that’s seeping into one of their cattle pastures—they’ve had to move the cattle off the land. Mike is also a farmer—he’s concerned about how high the gob and ash pile has gotten and wants to know when it will be covered—he’s also concerned about his well water. An elderly couple had to move from their home because their water well was contaminated.”
“An elderly woman living near the Ameren Hutsonville Power Station in the southeastern part of Illinois signed away not only her groundwater rights, but also the future rights for anyone wanting to purchase her home and farm in years to come. The price? ONE DOLLAR, because this woman didn’t know she had an option. This was due to the fact that Ameren became aware that one of their coal ash impoundments had been leaking for years and had contaminated groundwater under her property. Their solution was to buy the groundwater rights to prevent future legal problems and then apply for a permit to pump the groundwater to keep it from moving further offsite (otherwise known as a groundwater management zone). But the pumped groundwater needs to go somewhere too and so the next step of the plan is to pipe the pumped contaminated groundwater to the Wabash River for discharge. The folks drinking water from the nearby Wabash River need to know EPA will call for closure requirements at these contaminated sites past what our Illinois EPA thinks is necessary for cleanup- pumping and dumping- from the ground to the river.”
These are only a few of the many stories told to us by coalfield residents. And as you can see, the coal ash issue is more than a clean water issue. It is an issue of justice. That is why Prairie Rivers Network and partners will continue to shine a light on these, frankly, despicable actions by the coal and power industries. That is why we will continue to push the EPA to address the problem that the state has ignored for too long.
We will continue to keep you informed about the progress of these very important rules, and let you know how you can help. For more information on other actions Prairie Rivers Network has taken regarding the coal ash rules, please see our links to letters below.
- Prairie Rivers Network and Illinois Partners Letter to USEPA Regarding Coal Ash Rules
- Attachments List of sites known to be contaminated by coal ash in Illinois and Pictures from Industry Mine, McDonough and Schuyler Counties on 8/27/2010 of the letter to the USEPA re: Coal Ash
- Public Interest Community Comments on Coal Ash Rule