NAACP Among Local Groups Filing Complaint Against
City Water, Light and Power Over Coal Ash
Springfield NAACP in the News
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Local groups file complaint against CWLP over coal ash John Reynolds
Posted Sep 27, 2017 at 2:46 PM Updated Sep 27, 2017 at 7:12 PM
The Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club and two other local organizations are asking the Illinois Pollution Control Board to order City Water, Light and Power to clean up contaminated groundwater at its coal ash storage site near the Dallman power plant.
The Sierra Club, the NAACP and the Prairie Rivers Network filed a complaint against CWLP with the Pollution Control Board Wednesday. The complaint states that there have been 623 instances of self-reported groundwater violations at the coal ash site since 2010. These include violations for elevated levels of arsenic, lead, boron, chromium, manganese iron and other pollutants.
Andrew Rehn, water resource engineer at Prairie Rivers Network, was one of the people who spoke at a noon press conference to announce the filing. The press conference was held on the 12th floor of the Crown Plaza Hotel, 3000 S. Dirksen Parkway, which provided an aerial view of the coal ash site on the opposite side of Interstate 55.
Rehn explained that coal ash is a by-product of coal-fired power plants.
“There is a groundwater problem in the coal ash ponds at CWLP’s Dallman power plant,” Rehn said. ”…These coal ash ponds are unlined, which means the ash has no barrier between it and the groundwater. It sits directly on the ground, meaning that any water that is there can saturate the ash, and contaminates from the ash can spread into the groundwater. From there, this groundwater can migrate offsite and contaminate groundwater, as well as come up through the ground and into places like Sugar Creek where there could be contamination as well.”
Amber Sabin, spokeswoman for CWLP, said the utility was unable to comment on the complaint because it had just been filed.
The complaint includes results from tests conducted by CWLP at monitoring wells at the site since 2010. In one instance in November 2016, arsenic was found to be 22 times the groundwater standard, the complaint said.
Rehn said the tests also revealed boron to be 9 times the accepted standard, iron was at 12 times the accepted standard and manganese was 54 times the standard.
“We’re filing this complaint because something needs to be done about the persistent and ongoing groundwater contamination at this site,” Rehn said. “And, Springfield needs to start thinking about the future. The coal ash should never have been put where it is. It is in the floodplain and directly adjacent to water bodies. This is no place to leave coal ash forever. Sooner or later, Springfield is going to have to do something about this coal ash.”
Teresa Haley, president of the state and Springfield Branch of the NAACP, said her group was pleased to join the Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network in filing the complaint.
“We are most concerned about what is happening environmentally,” Haley said. “We see it as a social justice issue, we see it as a civil rights issue.”
Scott Gauvin, chair of the Sangamon Valley Group of the Sierra Club, said they have had meetings with CWLP and Mayor Jim Langfelder on the coal ash issue.
“The answer we usually get from CWLP is that it’s not drinking water so there’s nothing to worry about,” Gauvin said. “The fact remains that there are state regulations, there are federal regulations and they are there for a reason. CWLP is showing us, 623 times, that they are violating state regulations.”
In addition to groundwater, coal ash can also contaminate the air, Gauvin said.
“Anytime you move it from one location to another, it is going to be airborne. It is something that is contaminating our environment,” Gauvin said.
Sierra Club officials said the next step would be for CWLP to file a response to the complaint. At some point, a hearing will likely be held.
Specifically, the complaint asks the pollution control board to declare that CWLP has violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act’s prohibitions on groundwater pollution at its Dallman plant and impose civil penalties.
The complaint also requests that the pollution control board order CWLP to:
* Cease and desist from causing or threatening to cause water pollution.
* Modify its coal ash and coal combustion waste disposal and storage practices so as to avoid future groundwater contamination.
* Remediate the contaminated groundwater so that it meets applicable Illinois groundwater quality standards.
–Contact John Reynolds: email@example.com, 788-1524, twitter.com/JohnReynoldsSJR.