News Local/State

Officials Call For A Public Hearing As Coal Ash Continues To Pollute The Middle Fork

The Middle Fork River near the coal ash ponds at the Vermilion Power Station near Oakwood, Illinois

Darrell Hoemann/Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

The Vermilion County Board has passed a resolution calling for a public hearing on a proposal by Dynegy Energy Midwest to wall off the banks of the Middle Fork River under its coal ash ponds at the retired Vermilion Power Station near Oakwood. 

Dynegy is asking the U.S. Army Corps Engineers to approve construction of a 1900 foot wall of rock in the river to stop erosion that’s cutting into the dams holding back the ponds. Coal ash is leaching into the Middle Fork, and a breach could cause a spill of up to 3.3 million cubic yards toxic coal ash into the river.

Kevin Green, chair of the Vermilion County Board, says walling off the river won’t solve the problem.

"The proposal to put the rock along the river is just a stopgap measure, if that, because eventually the river will erode it away," he said. "I think they feel if we get that stretch in, things will look okay enough that we can just leave things there but really that's just not a sound idea. The river will take all that away eventually as it did the original berms that were erected in the 1980s.” 

The Vermilion County Board joins a growing list of area government, business, and environmental groups asking for a public hearing on Dynegy’s proposal. Others include the Vermilion County Conservation District, the Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Vermilion County Audubon Society, and the business group Vermilion Advantage. The Champaign County Board will soon be considering a similar resolution.

Dynegy and its parent company Vistra Energy declined to comment for this story.