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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bluff collapse at power plant sends dirt, coal ash into Lake Michigan

From an article by Meg Jones and Don Behm in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Oak Creek - A large section of bluff collapsed Monday next to the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant, sending dirt, coal ash and mud cascading into the shoreline next to Lake Michigan and dumping a pickup truck, dredging equipment, soil and other debris into the lake.

There were no injuries, and the incident did not affect power output from the plant.

When the section of bluff collapsed and slid from a terraced area at the top of a hill down to the lake, Oak Creek Acting Fire Chief Tom Rosandich said, it left behind a debris field that stretched 120 yards long and 50 to 80 yards wide at the bottom.

Aerial images show a trailer and storage units holding construction equipment tumbled like Tonka toy trucks and were swept along with the falling bluff in a river of dirt that ended in the water.

"This is definitely a freak accident," U.S. Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Brian Dykenssaid.

As a company hired by We Energies began cleanup in Lake Michigan, the utility confirmed that coal ash was part of the debris.

"Based on our land use records it is probable that some of the material that washed into the lake is coal ash," We Energies spokesman Barry McNulty said. "We believe that was something that was used to fill the ravine area in that site during the 1950s. That's a practice that was discontinued several decades ago."

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of developing stricter regulations of coal ash following a 2008 Tennessee coal ash pond washout that created a devastating environmental disaster.

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