Nov 29, 2018

Reports Uncovers Coal Ash Groundwater Contamination Across Illinois

The report found groundwater contamination at coal ash sites across Illinois

Groundwater contamination discovered surrounding Illinois coal ash pits
Groundwater contamination discovered surrounding Illinois coal ash pits

A new report released Nov. 28 found coal ash disposal sites throughout Illinois have contaminated surrounding groundwater supplies. The report by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice, Prairie Rivers Network and the Sierra Club discovered toxic pollutants leaching from 22 of 24 coal ash dump sites.

According to The State Journal-Register, the environmental groups are calling for new legislative standards to protect groundwater and regulate the closure of coal ash ponds.

“Illinois need to act now to strengthen rules that protect the public from coal ash,” said Andrew Rehn, a water resources engineer from Prairie Rivers Network. “We’re reaching a turning point as energy companies are proposing to leave coal ash in floodplains of rivers and exposed to groundwater.”

For City Water, Light & Power (CWLP), the energy utility that serves the state’s capital of Springfield, Ill., coal ash ponds near Spaulding Dam have leached unsafe levels of boron in three of the four downgradient monitoring wells. Sulfate was found in excess in two of the wells and arsenic concentrations in one well is 20 times higher than a safe level. The issue, according to the report, is that CWLP’s ash ponds are unlined, allowing toxins to leak into groundwater. In response, CWLP has said the ash ponds were not typically constructed with liners in the era they were built and that no drinking water wells are at risk.

“These pollutants we are talking about, these heavy metals, they don’t disappear, they don’t dissolve into the environment,” said Jenny Cassel, an attorney for Earthjustice. “They stay there for years and years, and so as long as they remain in contact in water, they will continue to leach out literally for hundreds of years.”