Environmentalists are pushing for stronger regulation of coal ash ponds. Illinois has 91 of them, located near 22 current and former coal-burning power plants, and they’re a problem, says Traci Barkley, water resources scientist with the Champaign-based Prairie Rivers Network. “Recent state-required groundwater monitoring has revealed that coal ash contaminants are present at every one of these power plant sites,” she said.
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Jack Darin, Illinois director for the Sierra Club, says they could collapse, sending their contaminated water into nearby rivers and streams, as happened in North Carolina in February. “These are disasters waiting to happen all across our state. They threaten our communities and our drinking water supplies,” he said. Coal ash contains mercury, lead and arsenic, which can cause cancer and brain damage in humans and are toxic to fish and wildlife.
The Illinois Pollution Control Board started hearings Wednesday on how and when power plants will be required to close coal ash ponds. The environmentalists want the power plant owners to be required to set aside money for environmental cleanup, should there be some kind of disaster, and they want coal ash eventually removed from ponds and placed in high and dry landfills.