Keep NWI Communities Safe from Coal Ash Pollution During COVID-19!

Keep NWI Communities Safe from Coal Ash Pollution During COVID-19!

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Under their proposed plan to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), the Northern Indiana Public Service Company, NIPSCO, is planning to dig up 170,600 cubic yards of coal ash onsite at its Michigan City coal plant and transport it to a landfill at their Schahfer plant in Jasper County. 

Studies have shown that heightened levels of air pollution increase fatalities from COVID-19. Excavation, transportation, and landfilling of coal ash can raise levels of particulate matter in the air. Particulate matter is a dangerous air pollutant linked to respiratory and cardiovascular health effects and to higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 that puts Michigan City, Jasper County and the communities along the transportation route at higher risk during the pandemic. Northwest Indiana (NWI), a region impacted by a legacy of environmental pollution, should not have to endure additional exposure.

We ask that IDEM postpone the removal of NIPSCO’s coal ash from the Michigan City coal plant until after the pandemic has resolved to save lives. The delay should remain effective until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the dangers posed from the coronavirus are no longer present for the State of Indiana.

Once the closure of the Michigan City coal ash ponds begins, we request that:

  • NIPSCO work with an independent Community Advisory Committee to assess the cleanup and closure process, provide the Committee regular updates, and fund a technical expert who can advise the Committee
  • IDEM publish an online page so public comments/concerns can be readily collected during the excavation process of digging up the coal ash
  • IDEM establish and enforce procedures with consequences for non-compliance, to ensure that coal ash dust does not endanger clean-up workers or the community
  • Hire an experienced, neutral third-party to be paid for by NIPSCO to monitor the air for particulate matter near the Michigan City plant and Schahfer landfill sites during excavation and transportation and provide real-time data available to the public to protect the health and safety of the workers and community
  • IDEM inspect both sites regularly during the excavation and transportation of the coal ash, monitoring for and minimizing airborne dust
  • NIPSCO transport the coal ash in “sift proof” vehicles to prevent ash from escaping during transportation
  • NIPSCO permanently secure the coal ash fill at Michigan City to prevent the possibility of future spills into Lake Michigan and Trail Creek and submit to IDEM a supplemental closure plan addressing and providing alternatives to the deteriorating sheet pile walls
  • IDEM immediately test fish, aquatic life, and sediments in Trail Creek and Lake Michigan for arsenic and other toxic and bioaccumulative coal ash contaminants with testing data made readily available to the public. If fish consumption is found threatening to public health due to hazardous pollutants, IDEM should take necessary measures to alert the community. 
  • NIPSCO extend water monitoring to encompass off-site migration into Trail Creek and Lake Michigan 
  • NIPSCO establish appropriate background wells that aren’t affected by coal ash to compare to the groundwater monitoring wells to indicate accurate pollution in groundwater

Now is NOT the time to increase pollution that will heighten the risk of severe coronavirus symptoms. Sign now to help keep Northwest Indiana safe from coal ash pollution during COVID-19!