Hearings held over coal ash concerns

Local News

DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Several groups want a company to right its wrongs before it closes.

Experts testified to a captive audience Monday night about the impact of coal ash. Environmental groups say pollution has devastated the Middle Fork River.

The former Dynegy power station is supposed to close soon, but the company plans to leave more than three million cubic yards of coal ash in pits along the river. The EPA should make a decision on whether it’ll approve that plan this year.

“That coal ash has just been piled up for decades on the banks of the river.”

If you go down the river bank now, you can see the rainbow-colored pollution firsthand. Groups leaders hope testimony from those who deal with coal ash contamination will persuade the Illinois EPA to act.

“Make a decision that would be in the best interest for the people of Vermilion County and that would be moving the ash away from the river into a permanent location.”

Lan Richart is one of the organizers of the hearing and he says they’ve made some progress. The deputy water division director of the IEPA was there.

“We think it’s a good indicator they’re there, because we want them to hear firsthand from the people and from the experts, and very frankly we believe we need to hold our elected officials and regulatory agencies accountable.”

The agency’s been working on preparing for Dynegy’s closure since 2012. That’s when a notice of violation was issued to the company.

A couple weeks ago, the Prairie Rivers Network filed a lawsuit against Dynegy, accusing it of violating the Clean Water Act. Activists the company needs to do everything possible to stop the pollution.

“We want them to make sure the river is permanently protected so the people of Vermilion County and people of the state can enjoy this river not just now, but in 50 years and 100 years.”

Vistra merged with Dynegy and disputes reports coal ash was washed into the river. Leaders say they’re ready to work on more projects to stabilize the river banks.

A UI professor testified at the hearing and says, even if river bank stabilization happened, it would likely only solve the problem short-term. That’s because over time, the river can change paths. He says it means, eventually the coal ash could have an even bigger negative impact.

Vistra leaders say they finished a nearly 500-foot river bank stabilization effort two years ago to restore parts of the river bank. They’ve planned to do more work.

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