Officials with the Sierra Club are warning that the collapse of a bluff at the We Energies Power Plant in Oak Creek this week could result in serious environmental danger. We Energies says the bluff collapse outside the coal-fired power plant on Monday likely dumped coal ash into Lake Michigan.
Bruce Milles with the Sierra Club says run-off from the collapse could result in toxic substances found in coal ash, such as mercury and lead, making their way into water supplies. He says that raises serious public health concerns because millions of people rely on drinking water that comes from Lake Michigan.
We Energies has not yet indicated how much coal ash may have fallen into Lake Michigan. Cleanup efforts from Monday’s accident are ongoing.
Milles says the disaster highlights the need for the federal government and states to pass stronger regulations on the storage and disposal of coal ash, which is a byproduct of coal that is burned to generate electricity. Despite the potential risks to water supplies, the area remains largely unregulated.
Milles notes the spill comes just weeks after the U.S. House approved a bill banning the EPA from passing new restrictions. The measure is currently awaiting action in the Senate, but the Sierra Club is urging Congress to reject the proposal.
Instead, the group wants the federal government to require utilities to monitor sites where coal ash is being stored for possible seepage or structural problems that could lead to spills, such as the one in Oak Creek.
AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:09)