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Bennett: Illinois has a toxic coal ash problem

bennett 050919Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act will protect land and water from coal ash pollution

SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) advanced legislation today to address the issue of severe groundwater contamination at Illinois coal ash dumpsites.

Recently, several state environmental groups found unsafe levels of toxic pollutants at 22 of Illinois’ coal ash storage sites in the last year.

Millions of tons of coal ash, generated by the state’s coal-fired power plants, have been stored in primarily unlined ponds and landfills near the plants for decades. This toxic byproduct of burning coal continues to flow into groundwater, lakes, rivers, and streams around the state, including the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River, Illinois’ only National Scenic River.

Senate Bill 9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, would direct owners and operators of coal-ash impoundments to remove the coal ash and dispose of if it in a safe manner. It would largely require the state to adopt federally enforceable safeguards on storage, care and closure of “surface impoundments,” large ponds where coal ash is disposed. 

“Illinois has a coal ash problem and the contamination is going to get worse. This toxic byproduct will be a part of our state’s environment for generations unless we act now,” Bennett said. “Illinois cannot afford to stand by while toxic waste threatens our state’s valuable water resources indefinitely.”

Coal ash contains a hazardous brew of toxic pollutants including arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, radium, selenium and more. Toxic elements in coal ash can threaten the health of humans as well as wildlife. When wet, coal ash contaminants seep into water and create severe implications for surrounding ecosystems.

“Cleaning up coal ash is not just an environmental issue, but also a health and economic concern,” Bennett said. “Coal ash waste also creates challenges for communities who want to reuse former coal plant sites or attract new businesses and cleaning it up can create jobs and open doors for future development.”

Senate Bill 9 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture (Chairperson); Appropriations II; Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Higher Education; Labor; State Government; Subcommittee on Capital.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.

Associated Representatives:
Carol Ammons
Michael T. Marron