Plans for coal waste announced in New Albany; not everyone is on board

Updated: May. 15, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
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NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - The Gallagher Station plant in New Albany will stop burning coal by 2022, so now, Duke Energy must figure out what to do with all the residue left behind.

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Coal ash, a highly-toxic waste product from coal-burning power plants, could permanently be stored in New Albany.

Duke Energy's plan for Gallagher Station is to dry up the sludgy mess in all five ponds. Two ponds of coal ash will be excavated to an onsite landfill, and the other three will be capped and left in place.

"Duke's plan is really the least desirable alternative, leaving it where it is," Hoosier Environmental Council spokesman Tim Mahoney said.

"We do it also with 30 years of groundwater monitoring, and with results that we regularly report to the Department of Environmental Management," Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere said.

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IDEM has not approved Duke's plan.

"Right next to the Ohio River, it is a very vulnerable groundwater system to contaminations," Mahoney said.

Coal ash is highly toxic. In 2008 the wall of a coal ash pond gave way at the Tennessee's Kingston Fossil Plant. The sludge damaged homes and spilled into the Emory River. The Tennessee Valley Authority reported the coal ash contained heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and barium.

"We are going to be moving a great deal of the ash to a landfill on site that meets federal requirements," Protogere said.

Duke Energy said  moving the coal ash to a landfill farther from the water would take about 500,000 truck trips.

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Mahoney said he still wants Duke to explore other options.

"In a modern landfill, you have assurance that the risk of contamination is greatly lowered," Mahoney said.

Mahoney also said Indiana has the most coal ash ponds in the country, adding that there have been 10 instances of waste contaminating water.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is accepting written comments from the public until May 28.

The comments can be emailed to, or sent to:

Solid Waste Permits Section
Office of Land Quality
100 North Senate Ave. IGCN 1101
Indianapolis, Indiana,
Attn: Nick Batton

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