(La Porte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners want answers to their concerns about the scheduled environmental clean-up of the NIPSCO coal-fired generating station in Michigan City after it closes.
Commission President Sheila Matias said she's heard from environmentalists about the potential health hazards of any buried coal ash allowed to remain at the site.
Matias said she plans to seek input now from NIPSCO, which is proposing to remove 10 percent of the coal ash and cap what's left.
Ten percent is all that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires but Matias wonders if more should be taken out since the site is beside Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for millions of people.
Matias wondered if there might be an environmental risk already because of a seawall that appears to be weakening. The coal ash is stored in several ponds at the site, and the seawall is holding back the coal ash closest to the shoreline.
Matias is especially concerned about the health risk of coal ash leaching into the lake.
"I'm looking at other communities in the Midwest where they have the same issue, and they're removing 100 percent. I want to know how did they get that to happen," Matias said.
The LaPorte County Commissioner discussed the topic at Wednesday night's commissioner's meeting.
Matias's goal was to make more people aware of what's happening at the site to get answers to any questions about NIPSCO's clean-up strategy.
"We'll hold NIPSCO's feet to the fire to make sure they do what's right," said Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.
Commissioner Joe Haney echoed the concerns of the other commissioners saying that it's something the commission and county need to keep an eye on.
The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has scheduled a hearing for August 1 on NIPSCO's plan to pay for the estimated $40 million clean-up with a rate increase.
The hearing at Michigan City City Hall begins at 6 p.m.
Matias said she plans to be at the hearing to educate herself on NIPSCO's position and encourages any member of the public with concerns to attend.
"NIPSCO needs to hear the community's concerns," Matias said.
According to NIPSCO, the generating station in Michigan City will close between 2026 and 2028. In addition, its Schahfer generating station in Wheatfield is set for closure in 2025.
NIPSCO is phasing out greenhouse gas-producing coal to rely more on the wind and sun to provide electricity.