Last Updated: May 6th, 2020 at 1:13 pm
Read Time: 3 Minutes
Concerns about coal ash continue to arise in different parts of the country, and one of the current concerns comes in western Michigan, where drinking water wells at four homes near the J.H. Campbell coal plant near Holland, Mich., show contaminants linked with coal ash pollution, according to Sierra Club testing cited by the Energy News Network.
Of the four homes tested, two show elevated levels of arsenic, and the others show heightened levels of radium and barium, both heavy metals, per the report.
What may be additionally concerning is that the coal ash from the Campbell plant’s four unlined ponds have been removed. All of the current waste generated from the plant is either being placed into a double-lined landfill on site or reused in other products, per Energy News Network.
“Certainly we’re looking into this and hope to get a look at their data,” Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy solid waste engineering coordinator Margie Ring told Energy News Network. Ring also told the website that this is the first time her department has heard of claims about contaminated wells.
Is there a coal ash contamination problem?
Consumers Energy, which owns the J.H. Campbell coal plant, has acknowledged the presence of coal ash residuals in groundwater at this facility, but neither officials with the state or with the utility say they have any evidence that there’s a problem beyond the company’s property, according to the Energy News Network.
“Today, Consumers Energy proactively monitors groundwater at more than 100 well locations on our site, with samples analyzed by a third-party laboratory,” Consumers spokesperson Roger Morgenstern said in a statement to Energy News Network. “Our data indicates no exceedances of arsenic, lead or radium above drinking water standards migrating beyond Consumers Energy’s property boundary.”
A Sierra Club official suggests otherwise.
“We picked four locations to get a feel of what might be there,” says Michigan Sierra Club development director Jan O’Connell. She added that “water in an aquifer doesn’t really know where property boundaries are.”
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While this Sierra Club data is tested for further evaluation, this is just the latest example of the potential dangers presented by coal ash. And the thing is, the Campbell plant isn’t expected to shut down until 2040, which means there will be more coal ash generated. It’s encouraging that the ash from this plant is being placed into a lined landfill, but not all coal ash ponds are getting the same treatment.
Beyond the coal ash problems, the burning of coal still generates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Power companies can’t change their methods of generating electricity overnight, which is why it will take years for many coal plants across the nation to be retired.
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