An environmental advocate says the new Illinois coal ash pollution law comes at a good time.
Joyce Blumenshine is with the Heart of Illinois Sierra Club. She said the federal government rolled back protections against the toxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants on Tuesday, just as Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act into law.
“The floodgates are open so to speak, as far as what the federal regulations are going to allow as far as dumping and impoundments, but now we have much better protections in our state," Blumenshine said.
The new law requires power companies to clean up coal ash pollution at their own expense, and requires the Illinois EPA to draft new rules governing coal ash.Coal ash can contaminate groundwater or rivers, potentially harming the health of humans or wildlife.
“There is a lot of residue. I mean, this is the second-largest waste stream in the nation next to regular household trash. So this is a huge amount of toxic waste," Blumenshine said.
Coal ash is a byproduct produced by coal-burning power plants. Blumenshine says coal ash contains toxic heavy metals like lead that seep into groundwater and rivers.
Many coal-burning plants are located along the Illinois River. An environmental study last year found groundwater around the E.D. Edwards power plant in Bartonville contained 18 times the U.S. EPA’s drinking water standard. Other coal-burning power plants in Central Illinois are based in Pekin, Canton, Havana and Hennepin.