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E-M:/ Lone Tree Council Press Release

                     Lone Tree Council

                P.O. 1251, Bay City, Michigan 48706

                             (Fighting for environmental justice since 1978)


For Immediate Release                                  Contact: Terry Miller, (989)686-6386

Thursday, October 30, 2008                                        Merri DeSanto, (989) 894-0617




       Ash Landfills Source of Contamination to Bay According to DEQ Documents


   Documents obtained from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by the watchdog group Lone Tree Council, indicate that Consumers Energy’s Karn and Weadock ash landfills in Hampton Township have been a regular discharger of arsenic and other toxics to the bay.    Investigations required by the DEQ in 2002 resulted in utility monitoring that showed arsenic, boron, lithium and sulfate from coal ash leachate entering the bay from two ash landfills located on site.

   The Weadock Disposal area consists of a 292 acre landfill. The adjacent Karn Disposal area is a 172 acre site.  Both are filled with fly ash and bottom ash, and both border the Saginaw Bay.  They were constructed in the 1940s through the 1970s on bay bottomlands and wetland areas. Inquiries by the Lone Tree Council into the handling of fly ash disclosed a utility process which turned the dried powder, the residue of coal burning, into a liquid slurry that was then pumped to the two landfill sites.

   The landfills were originally supposed to be isolated from the bay by clay walls keyed into the clay bedrock, but according to the DEQ, the utility failed to create a sealed barrier.   Testing ordered by the DEQ in 2002 showed levels of arsenic leaching into Saginaw Bay that exceeded water quality standards for Michigan. 

    Moreover, the facility uses Saginaw River water for process water, and is authorized to discharge up to 1.46 billion gallons per day to Saginaw Bay.  According to the State’s Waste and Hazardous Materials Division, Remediation Advisory Team report:  “The processes result in a net increase in mercury in the discharge water over the intake.”

    “We are supposed to be excited about an expanded coal-fired complex and we discover that the company has been historically negligent about its wastes,” said Lone Tree Council chairman, Terry Miller.  “Here is one of the two largest utilities in the state showing an incredible level of irresponsibility – how many decades have seen arsenic leaching into the bay, the source of our drinking water?” 

    The group also discovered that in 1992, the waste sites were given a total of fourteen (14) variances that would normally be required by this type landfill.  These exempted Consumers Power (now Consumers Energy) from among other items, staying 100 feet from the shoreline, four feet clearance from groundwater, continuous supervision of unloading, and the requirement to cover. 

   Also, because the ash was in a liquid form and had access to groundwater, the Company in 1986 was exempted from getting a State groundwater discharge permit.  As the Water Resources Commission, an oversight body at the time, noted: “The discharge is to an unusable aquifer which vents to Saginaw Bay almost immediately.”  The Company has recently requested that that they continue to be exempted from getting a State groundwater permit from the DEQ Water Bureau. 

   “It is not a secret that our group opposes the expansion of coal fired plants – it is what prompted the inquiries,” said Miller, “but this adds an additional level of concern, and brings a whole host of questions to the table – how does the utility plan on remediating this legacy of neglect?  What additional provisions have been made for the ash from an expanded facility? What levels of arsenic reach drinking water intakes?  And will the ratepayer be held responsible for a cleanup?”

   “This news on arsenic and ash is another reason ‘clean coal’ is just a promotional phrase used by utility lobbyists,” added Merri DeSanto, spokesperson for Citizens Exploring Clean Energy (CECE), a Bay City group recently formed to examine the energy issue. “We are very interested in pursuing clean energy such as wind, geothermal, and solar, and the more news we hear about the problems with the burning of coal, the more we believe that jobs, public health, and the environment are only served by renewables.”

   The DEQ’s Water Bureau and Waste and Hazardous Materials Division, have indicated that they have been in regular discussions with the utility and that the Company has agreed to construct a slurry wall at the Weadock ash landfill.  Remediation of the Karn ash landfill is still under discussion.  The Lone Tree Council has requested that the MDEQ conduct a public meeting to more fully address the issues at the site.