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CWLP sued over release of coal fly ash

CWLP plant
NPR Illinois

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul has filed a lawsuit against Springfield’s City, Water, Light, and Power for allegedly releasing fly ash into the environment.

Raoul filed the complaint in Sangamon County Circuit Court alleging that in August 2021, CWLP’s Dallman power generation station in Springfield released the fly ash to both the ground and atmosphere. Attorney General Raoul’s office also filed an agreed interim order that requires CWLP to report the extent of the incident to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and take precautions to prevent similar releases in the future.

CWLP’s Dallman facility is located at 3100 Adlai Stevenson Drive in Springfield in an area the IEPA has designated as an area of environmental justice concern. Raoul’s lawsuit is based on a referral from the IEPA.

“This lawsuit and interim order prioritize the safety of Springfield residents while working closely with CWLP to ensure an incident like this does not happen again. The order entered today is a first step, requiring CWLP to thoroughly evaluate the 2021 incident,” Raoul said. “All Illinois residents have a right to clean air, and I am committed to enforcing the environmental laws and regulations that protect that right.”

CWLP is owned and operated by the city of Springfield and provides drinking water and electricity to Springfield residents. There was no response from the city regarding the legal action.

“This agreed interim order holds CWLP accountable for the fly ash release that migrated to the surrounding area,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim. “The order establishes new operations and emissions reporting requirements related to CWLP’s fly ash management, and provides a path to continue to work with the Attorney General’s office and CWLP on longer-term solutions to address fly ash.”

Coal and other materials used in operations at CWLP’s Dallman power station generate fly ash, which is stored in a dry fly ash silo until it is conveyed through pipes and loaded onto trucks for disposal off site. The top of the silo is equipped with a vent-like filtration unit and baghouse.

While the silo is being loaded, displaced air moves through the filter and out through the top of the silo. During previous maintenance on the filtration unit, a fabric filter separator bag fell from the top of the silo and eventually worked its way down until it became caught in a valve at the bottom of the silo, where it plugged the pipe and flow of fly ash.

Raoul’s lawsuit alleges that on Aug. 31, 2021, CWLP employees rolled back the valve in order to remove the fabric filter separator bag. Once the pipe was cleared, fly ash began flowing and filled the room, forcing employees to leave the room without replacing the valve. IEPA staff who responded to the incident allegedly observed a fly ash plume that spread beyond the Dallman facility even after CWLP employees were able to reattach the valve.

Raoul’s lawsuit alleges CWLP violated the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, Illinois Pollution Control Board regulations and its Clean Air Act Permit Program permit. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit CWLP from future violations of state environmental laws and regulations, as well as civil penalties.

The agreed interim order in place while the lawsuit is pending requires CWLP to conduct a thorough analysis and report to the IEPA within 30 days of the order being entered by the court. For instance, CWLP is required to submit photos of the equipment from which the release occurred, the amount of disposed fly ash, emission calculations, and descriptions of repairs and maintenance. CWLP must also properly document future inspections and monitoring as required by its permit.

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