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Friday, August 27, 2010

Report: We Energies landfills likely source of groundwater contamination

From an article by Christine Won in the Racine Journal Times:

CALEDONIA - A report released Thursday by environmental groups points to We Energies coal ash landfills as the likely source of the groundwater contamination that has left several residents without drinking water for the past year.

Almost 40 coal ash dump sites in 21 states, including Wisconsin, are contaminating groundwater or surface water with toxic metals like arsenic, mercury or lead, according to a report by the Enviromental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club.

The Oak Creek power plant, which has one active and two closed coal ash landfills, was named as having private wells in the area contaminated by molybdenum and boron.

We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty called the report "incomplete" and "flawed," drawn up in a time crunch to meet an agenda of getting it out before the U.S. Environmental Public Agency hearings on the coal ash rule begin nationwide Monday.

For the first time the EPA is proposing a coal ash regulation and considering two possible options at its hearings. One is to regulate as special wastes for disposal in landfills or surface impoundments and another to regulate as non-hazardous wastes.

We Energies has maintained that its coal ash sites cannot be the contaminant source because the natural groundwater in the bedrock aquifer, where most of the contaminated well water comes from, flows toward the northeast, toward the power plant.

Russell Boulding, a freelance environmental consultant who owns Boulding Soil-Water Consultant out of Bloomington, Ind., said he drew his conclusion in the report that the coal ash landfills are the most likely source for the groundwater contamination in the plant vicinity based on collected data patterns and high levels of molybdenum found within a concentrated area of the landfills. Boulding added the bedrock aquifer is a fractured system, where groundwater flow doesn't always follow the general trend, especially if water is pumped.

A dozen private drinking water wells within 1,500 feet of the coal ash landfills were found to exceed the state groundwater standards for molybdenum and boron, 40 and 960 micrograms per liter, respectively, according to the report.

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