Illinois Attorney General, Vermilion Co. State’s Attorney file lawsuit against Dynegy over coal ash pollution

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CHICAGO, Ill (WCIA) – Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Vermilion County State’s Attorney Jacqueline Lacy are suing Dynegy Midwest Generation, LLC (Dynegy) over the unlawful disposal of coal ash.

A press release from Raoul’s office says the coal ash is stored at the former Vermilion Power Station, adding it led to groundwater pollution around the coal power plant.

Raoul and Lacy also motioned to enter into an agreed interim order that requires Dynegy to create a safety emergency response plan for the site, says the release.

“Dynegy’s actions created a public health risk by contaminating the area’s groundwater and led to the pollution of Illinois’ only nationally-recognized scenic river and,” Raoul said. “I am pleased to partner with Vermilion County State’s Attorney Jacqueline Lacy and am committed to holding Dynegy accountable for harming our environment and putting the health of Illinois residents at risk.”

“Protecting our environment is critical to the safety and security of our Citizens in Vermilion County,” Lacy said. “Thank you to Attorney General Raoul’s Office for working diligently with our community to ensure the protection of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.”

Raoul’s lawsuit is based on a referral from the IEPA.

“The Agreed Interim Order is a vital step in addressing our long-standing concerns with the facility’s coal ash ponds,” IEPA Director John Kim said. “The Order establishes necessary timelines for addressing the impacts on area groundwater and the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, and provides for more meaningful public participation while moving toward the ultimate closure of the facility’s coal ash ponds.”

The release says that Dynegy owns the property in Oakwood, where the coal-fired Vermilion Power Station operated until November 2011.

Coal ash was produced via Dynegy’s burning of coal, which it then dumped in man-made ponds. The release says that coal ash may have several harmful byproducts that may adversely impact groundwater and the nearby Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.

This river is also Illinois’ only national scenic river, per the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Prosecutors say the river’s banks continue to erode, Additionally, they say the coal ash ponds being located in the flood plain further threatens the river’s well-being.

“In today’s lawsuit, Raoul and Lacy argue that by placing coal ash into the onsite ponds, Dynegy contaminated the surrounding groundwater and the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River,” says the release. “Raoul and Lacy point out that as long as the coal ash remains in the unlined ponds, it continues to pose a threat to groundwater and the river. Raoul and Lacy argue the presence of coal ash seriously jeopardizes public health and the environment.”

Both prosecutors filed an agreed interim order that, if approved, would require Dynegy to prepare a safety emergency response plan. It would outlines circumstances that would trigger the emergency response and the procedures to be followed in the event of further contamination or erosion.

The order also requires Dynegy to create written scopes of work for a groundwater collection trench and dewatering of the ponds, and to conduct riverbank inspections at the site. Dynegy must also prepare reports for public meetings at which the company will discuss plans for closure by removal of the coal ash that is currently in the ponds.

Bureau Chief Stephen Sylvester and Senior Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Pamenter are handling the case for Raoul’s Environmental Enforcement Division.

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