Lansing Board of Water and Light employees were held to task this pastÂ Wednesday (July 21)Â at a public hearing on coal ash disposal held by the Lansing City Council’s Public Safety Committee.
Following a BWL presentation, neighbors appeared to know more about the clean up and specifics about the site that is undergoing remediation on Lansing’s northwest side than Board representatives did.
After being told that BWL notified neighbors in the adjoining area about the cleanup, one neighbor answered that the notification was only a few days prior to the start of the cleanup and it said that BWL would be removing rubbish from the area.
Another attendee, a representative of an environmental watchdog group, took exception to a public health representative who explained that coal ash is not dangerous.Â She was right of course. There are plenty of credible studies including those conducted for the EPA that show that coal ash is a dangerous carcinogen.
A BWL representative, when asked about leaching of the coal ash into the adjacent areas including the nearby Grand River did not have any documentation about what trace elements were found during tests or at what levels. They promised to provide that information.
All in all, I was not surprised by BWL’s reactions or responses. When I researched the coal ash cleanup for a series of articles for Lansing Online News I was astounded about what information BWL did not have or which was unavailable to me except through Freedom of Information.Â This is the kind of reaction I would more expect to come from a privately-owned company not a publically-owned utility.
On the other hand, when BWL rolled out the news earlier in the week about a new electric generating plant that would be built in REO Town andÂ be run on natural gas they had all the answers and were anxious to talk with the media. One media outletÂ told me last night that BWL officials refused to do an interview.
Now that the coal ash cleanup project is on the list forÂ the Lansing City Council and several environmental groups maybe BWL will be more responsive.
The one group that should be really hot under the collar is the public board that oversees BWL. They should demand a higher level of accountability. This is a major Board position within the city and with it comes lots of responsibility. The BWL Board should start by meeting more than every other month. It is really inexcusable that neither the BWL Board nor the Lansing City Council knew nothing about the cleanup.
The good news is BWL is finally cleaning up the site after more than 45 years.
A recent report from the environmental group Lone Tree Council which has been carefully monitoring Consumers Energy’s Karn-Weadock facility in Essexville Michigan said that Consumers “failed to monitor hazardous coal ash at its two landfills in the Saginaw-Bay area and report leaks that potentially endangered people”. As a result Consumers was cited by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Energy on July 1, 2010 and ordered to take corrective action.
Â â€œConsumers Energyâ€™s coal ash cover-up only puts local families at greater risk, highlighting the fact that Michigan must slam the brakes on coal and turn to more clean energy,â€ Lone Tree Council President Terry Miller said.
â€œCoal is killing Michigan jobs and coal ash is poisoning our water, land and air. Michigan must invest in more clean energy and energy efficiency now to protect our families, end our dangerous dependence on coal and create good-paying jobs for our working families.â€
The Lone Tree Council was forced to obtain documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The documents said:
â€œConsumers Energy has two landfills on Saginaw Bay: a 292-acre site and a 172-acre site. These landfills contain bottom ash and fly ash from decades of coal burning on the mouth of the Saginaw River. The ash was converted to slurry and piped to the landfills.Â Historically the landfills were unlined and the utility failed to create a barrier between bay water and groundwater from the sites. The utility received several variances to allow creation of these landfills in coastal marshes and state bottom lands.
Although BWL’s coal ash storage sites are much smaller there still should careful oversight during the cleanup. BWL also said at the hearing Wednesday that they likely willÂ be compiling a response to the proposed federal regulations covering coal ash disposal and storage.
Opinions presented in this blog are mine. I live on the Grand River directly across from the coal ash clean up.