Coal Ash Along Shores of Great Lakes Threatens Water as Residents Protest

"More than 100 coal ash waste sites, many unregulated, sit just feet from the Great Lakes, raising concerns for nearby communities and the 30 million people who rely on the lakes for drinking water."

"Just four miles up the shore from the public beach in Waukegan, Illinois, sits the Waukegan Generating Station, a formerly coal-powered electricity plant. According to Dulce Ortiz, a Waukegan resident, the coal ash—a byproduct of coal power generation—left behind by the plant is a “ticking bomb” that threatens not only her community’s water supply, but all of Lake Michigan, as well.

Ortiz, a founder of the environmental justice nonprofit Clean Power Lake County, has worked for a decade to ensure that the coal ash waste at Waukegan Generating Station gets cleaned up. In June 2022, they completed the first task: closure of the plant’s last two coal-burning units.

But coal ash still fills underground impoundments and ponds at the site, where residents are worried that toxic metals like arsenic, lead and mercury, linked to certain cancers and neurological problems, could be leaching into groundwater. According to a 2019 ruling by the Illinois Pollution Control Board, coal ash-derived boron and sulfate exceeding the board’s regulations have been detected in Waukegan’s groundwater. Because of the pollution, Ortiz doesn’t let her children swim in nearby Lake Michigan.

The Waukegan Generating Station sites are just one example of the 111 coal ash waste sites within two miles of Great Lakes shores—many of which threaten the health of the environment and nearby communities. While coal ash waste sites are scattered around the country, those nearest to Great Lakes shores are of special concern, as more than 30 million people rely on the lakes for clean drinking water. According to estimates by Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, many of the coal ash sites are in violation of a federal rule regulating coal ash pollution, but little has been done by the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the rule."

Grace van Deelen reports for Inside Climate News February 5, 2023.


Source: Inside Climate News, 02/07/2023