Chesterton Tribune



NIPSCO to delay Michigan City coal ash excavation

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The Northern Indiana Public Service Company has announced that it will postpone the removal of 170,600 cubic yards of coach ash from the Michigan City generating station until spring 2021.

The announced postponement came just days after the NAACP LaPorte County Branch and Just Transition NWI submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) a petition signed by 3,000 people urging NIPSCO to delay coal-ash removal until after the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course.

“Studies show that an increase in air pollution, which may result from the movement of the hazardous ash, increases mortality from COVID-19,” according to a statement released by NAACP LaPorte County Branch and Just Transition NWI. “NIPSCO’s willingness to address community concerns is important and the delay has been acknowledged as a necessary step within the closure process.”

“However, just delaying the process is not enough,” the statement said. “As the petition also demands, when the time is appropriate for this removal process, IDEM and NIPSCO must implement stronger safety measures than the utility is currently proposing to protect the impacted communities, workers, and environment from exposure to toxic ash.”

NAACP LaPorte County Branch, Just Transition NWI, Hoosier Environmental Council, Save the Dunes, and EarthJustice are among the organizations that have called on NIPSCO to add more public safeguards for air, water, and aquatic life in the draft plan to relocate the coal ash.

Among the groups’ requests is the immediate testing of sediment and aquatic life in Trail Creek and Lake Michigan, as the bioaccumulative toxins in coal ash, such as arsenic, may be accumulating in fish being consumed by local residents. Consumption of heavy metals in fish tissue can pose grave health hazards. “While NIPSCO maintains that there is no risk to Lake Michigan and Trail Creek from the leaking coal-ash ponds, the company has never tested the sediment or the aquatic life near the plant,” the statement said.

Among the other requests made by the petition:

-- That NIPSCO works closely with an independent community advisory committee to assess the cleanup and closure process.

-- That IDEM publishes an online page so public comments and concerns can be readily collected during the excavation process.

-- That IDEM establishes and enforces procedures with consequences for non-compliance.

-- That NIPSCO hires an experienced, neutral third-party to monitor the air for particulate matter near the Michigan City plant and the Schahfer landfill sites.

-- That IDEM inspects both sites frequently.

-- That NIPSCO transports the coal ash in “sift-proof” vehicles to prevent ash escaping during transportation.

-- That NIPSCO permanently secures the coal-ash fill at Michigan City to prevent the possibility of spills into Lake Michigan and Trail Creek.

-- That NIPSCO extends water-monitoring to check for off-site migration into Lake Michigan and Trail Creek.



Posted 6/29/2020




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