The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking the public’s feedback on a proposed cleanup of coal ash buried along Lake Michigan that the agency believes is threatening wildlife at the Indiana Dunes National Park.
The EPA has drafted a cleanup plan for the eastern part of Northern Indiana Public Service Co.’s former Bailly Generating Station in Chesterton. The deadline for public comments is Aug. 19.
EPA officials believe coal ash buried around the former coal-fired power plant is seeping through groundwater and threatening plants and wildlife at the national park. The 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) park along Lake Michigan’s southern shore is located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Chicago, and contains one of the nation’s most biodiverse ecosystems.
The Bailly Generating Station closed in 2018, but the EPA said NIPSCO buried coal ash — a byproduct of coal burned to produce electricity — there in the 1960s and 1970s about 25 feet (7.6 meters) underground.
The agency believes that ash is seeping into underground water, which is “carrying the underground contamination into the park,” the Post-Tribune reported.
Coal ash is known to contain many toxic metals, but boron is the primary contaminant the EPA is worried about. The agency said the metal is harming plants but is present at levels “too low to harm people.”
The EPA’s plan calls for 100,000 cubic yards (76,455 cubic meters) of dry coal ash/soil to be dug up and hauled off-site for disposal. Another 85,000 cubic yards (64,987 cubic meters) of “wet” ash below the water table would be solidified to prevent contaminants from migrating to the groundwater or surface water, the agency said.