Battle over coal ash continues in Illinois, with hearings underway

Environmental watchdogs have long feared the coal ash could be contaminating groundwater and nearby water bodies, including Lake Michigan.
In the latest chapter in the years-long battle over this coal ash, the Illinois Pollution Control Board is considering a demand from environmental groups that the current owner of the sites, NRG, stop putting coal ash in the repositories, remove much of the existing coal ash — including at sites recently found outside the locations in the original agreement — and take other remediation and containment measures.
The pollution control board will rule on whether contamination found in groundwater near the Will County, Waukegan, Powerton and Joliet coal plants has come from coal ash, and whether NRG should be held liable for it.
NRG bought these four coal plants along with two Chicago coal plants that had already closed from Midwest Generation in 2014, after the company went into bankruptcy.
Our expert will explain the ash testing in three of the historic ash areas showing that it was not — is not — leaching coal ash constituents.” NRG spokesman David Gaier said that the compliance agreements involving Midwest Generation have been fulfilled.
He did not address questions about the historic coal ash outside the areas covered in the compliance agreements, citing the ongoing legal process.
Shortly before Midwest Generation’s remediation plan with the state was finalized, the environmental groups filed their complaint.
“We definitely think they should close the ash ponds and remove the ash,” said Russ, one of the attorneys on the case.
But at the Joliet, Waukegan and Will County plants, he said, “it would be relatively easy to get all the ash out of there and put it in a lined landfill.” During the hearing, Nijman of Midwest Generation also noted that the company has to comply with a 2015 federal rule on coal ash storage that was hashed out during years of contentious negotiations.
And he notes that further requirements on how the company deals with coal ash could increase the costs of doing business and make it more likely the plant will close — an outcome that many residents both hope for and fear.

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