Utilities must clean up mess after dumping toxic chemicals into groundwater

Duke's Cayuga Generating Station along the Wabash river, as seen from the air, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. A coal ash pit can be seen at right. (Photo via Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Utilities across the country — including in Indiana — admitted late last year that they violated state and federal pollution standards by leaking dangerous levels of toxic chemicals from their coal ash ponds into nearby groundwater.

The admissions are expected to lead to the eventual clean-up of toxic sites around the nation, although the Donald Trump administration has extended the clean-up timeline, allowing the pits to keep spewing dangerous chemicals for nearly two more years.

In Indiana, which leads the nation in number of coal ash ponds, that news comes as a beacon to those who live around the sites of current and former coal-fired power plants.

“The trigger has been pulled for mandatory clean-up,” said Lisa Evans, senior counsel at Earthjustice, an nonprofit environmental law group. “It is not shovels in the ground yet, but it is a good step to reduce the risk in neighboring communities.”

Numerous utilities have disclosed that toxic waste at more than 65 power plants in more than 20 states have leaked harmful chemicals. In Indiana, two utilities — Duke Energy and Northern Indiana Public Service Company — have polluted in excess of standards at five different power plants.

Still, the majority of plants in Indiana have not yet posted the notifications that would trigger clean-up, according to Evans. She expects more such disclosures in the spring from the other major utilities, including Indianapolis Power & Light, Vectren Energy, and Indiana Michigan Power.

Read the full story from our newsgathering partners at the IndyStar.

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