CWLP will be closing its ash ponds. What's next is the question

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The Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield, photographed Tuesday, stores the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive in Springfield. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
The Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield, photographed Tuesday, stores the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive in Springfield. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

Two public meetings Thursday will address what City Water, Light & Power will do in light of the closing of two coal ash ponds at Lake Springfield.

Based on a report mandated by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and submitted by Andrews Engineering of Springfield, two alternatives are being considered: capping the 35-acre ponds or transporting the ash to offsite landfills.

New regulations on the state level are asking municipal utilities like CWLP to present details about how they are going to close such impoundments.

The meetings will take place in-person at the city council chamber in Municipal Center West, 300 S. Seventh St., at 2 and 5:30 p.m. The meetings will be broadcast live on Comcast cable channel 18 and AT&T U-verse channel 99. They also will be streamed on the city's web site.

The costs of the plans are wildly divergent.

Preliminary numbers from the engineer's report put the cap-in-place at just over $8 million while off-site transportation could run in the $145 million range.

The ash is a byproduct of the coal combustion process from the Lakeside and Dallman power plants.

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The Lakeside pond was built around 1958, said Deborah Williams, CWLP's regulatory affairs director. The utility stopped sending ash there in 2009. The Dallman plant pond was built in 1976 and expanded in the 1980s.

Both are about 35 acres in size and are across East Lake Drive from the Spaulding Dam on the north side of the road.

Williams feels it's "a much riskier environmental alternative to try to take this material somewhere else."

Nearly 100 trucks daily would have to haul the ash to landfills over a seven-year period, Williams said.

The Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield, photographed Tuesday, stores the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive in Springfield. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
The Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield, photographed Tuesday, stores the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive in Springfield. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

In addition to transportation costs, like fuel and the wear and tear on roads, there are questions about landfills, Williams said.

"We expect no one landfill in our region can take all of this material," Williams said. "These landfills will probably not want to mix this material with traditional garbage because it can create some nasty byproducts in the decomposition.

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"There are a lot of issues with it that are unrelated to costs and (those are issues) I'm looking at. If I thought a more costly or better alternative was necessary to protect the environment, that would be my job to advocate for it, but it's definitely not."

Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club Illinois and the Springfield NAACP all oppose the capping proposal, citing environmental and public health concerns.

"The coal ash is directly on top of groundwater reserves," said Nick Dodson, executive office membership chair of the Sierra Club Sangamon Valley Group. "By capping (these ponds) we are concerned this will contaminate the groundwater long term. We know in 2017, CWLP had 623 self-reported violations."

Dodson said he wants to make sure the public has a legitimate input into any decision.

"This is a municipally-operated utility," Dodson. "We want the public's voice heard, not just voices from CWLP administration and engineers."

A capping procedure wouldn't go into place, Williams said, unless the Illinois EPA has looked at CWLP's plan and determined it is safe.

"(Illinois EPA) is looking decades into future when they analyze the plan," Williams said. "Obviously, anything in the world can change, but this is generally how these sites are looked at over decades and the plans, when they're accepted by the agency, would rarely be revisited unless they didn't perform the way they were designed to."

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Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer said capping the ponds "is something that would be best all around."

Hanauer said the alternative would result in a utility increase for ratepayers.

The pipeline used to carry ash to the Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield to store the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]
The pipeline used to carry ash to the Dallman coal ash pond across from Lake Springfield to store the ash produced through the electric generating process at City Water, Light and Power's Dallman 31, 32 and 33 generating units along East Lake Shore Drive. When units 31, 32 and 33 were in service the ash was moved into the ash pond through a process called "sluicing," which combined the ash with lake water and transported to the pond through a pipeline. CWLP will hold two public meetings to discuss the eventual closure of its two coal ash ponds. [Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register]

The city, he added, set up an environmental fund, now around $20 million, to offset some of the costs.

"We're not asking for anything EPAs haven't allowed around the country," Hanauer contended. "We're not asking for anything different. We're just wanting to do it the least expensive way, but one that is going to achieve the goal."

In addition to a presentation from Andrews Engineers, CWLP representatives will answer questions from the public at the meetings.

Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, sspearie@sj-r.com, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.

This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: Two Springfield public meetings set on closure of CWLP ash ponds

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