Two Thirds Of Illinois Waterways Are Unsafe, Says Prairie Rivers Network
A clean water advocacy group says two thirds of water bodies in Illinois are unsafe. Those water bodies include streams, lakes and rivers across the state.
Carol Hays is the Executive Director for the Prairie Rivers Network. Speaking on the 21st show, she says those waterways are deemed impaired--or unsafe--by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act.
“They either can't be fished from, we shouldn't drink water from them, or we shouldn't recreate in them, play in them, swim in them," said Hays.
The Clean Water Act requires that states establish water quality standards for waterways inside their borders, and if a water, body doesn’t meet those standards, it is deemed impaired.
She says plans should be put in place to restore impaired sites, even though they are often complicated, expensive and time consuming.
The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River is one such site that has been deemed impaired by the Illinois EPA.
The non-profit environmental law group Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in May on Prairie Rivers Network's behalf against the energy company Dynegy—in an effort to force the company to clean up its coal ash pits.
The lawsuit alleges Dynegy violated the Clean Water Act—a law addressing water pollution.
It also alleges more than 3 million cubic yards of waste–-known as coal ash--sit in unlined pits. Hays says dangerous chemicals leach out of the pits and into the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.
“The way that these ponds are dug, they are simply dug in the ground without any kind of lining, and they’re susceptible to leakage into groundwater," said Hays.
The plant where the pits are located shut down in 2011. But Hays says the chemicals continue to leach out.
The national advocacy group American Rivers recently named the Vermilion River one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2018, because of the presence of coal ash.
A spokesperson with Vistra Energy, which now owns Dynegy, responded by saying neither company has violated any laws and will defend against the allegations.