IDEM Finds Large Amounts Of Fly Ash In Unpermitted Areas Of Tanners Creek Plant Site

The property owner says the ash was historically there and the violations identified by the regulatory agency are part of their plan to address environmental concerns at the former power plant.

The former Tanners Creek Power Plant property in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. File photo.

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – Coal fly ash is not just located within designated landfills at the former Tanners Creek Power Plant property in Lawrenceburg.

The toxic substance is stored in unpermitted areas, the largest of which has not been properly regulated for years.

Recent inspections performed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management identified the problems on the 725-acre site being prepared for potential redevelopment as a new Ohio River port by Ports of Indiana.

Indiana environmental organizations as well as local cities, utilities, and citizens have paid much attention to the fly ash situation at Tanners Creek in recent months. Multiple, massive ash landfills – some with a protective lining, others without – rest just above an underground drinking water aquifer utilized by Aurora Utilities and Lawrenceburg Manchester Sparta Conservancy. The landfills contain millions of tons of fly ash from 60 years of coal burning at the old American Electric Power-owned power plant.

The proximity of the ash storage poses the risk of contaminating the groundwater with poisonous substances such as arsenic, boron, lead, and others.

View the October 10 IDEM inspection reports:

Fly Ash Pond - no violations found

Restricted waste landfill - no violations found

Tanners Creek Power Plant footprint - violation found

Former Gibbco, Inc. site - violation found

Four inspections were carried out by IDEM officials on October 10 at the site now owned by Commercial Development Company subsidiary Tanners Creek Development LLC. Two of those inspections confirmed ash is present in large quantities outside of the permitted landfills.

One of the violations concerns a rough estimate of 175,000 cubic yards of coal combustion waste at the site of another business which operated near the power plant before it was decommissioned. Gibbco processed bottom ash, or boiler slag, from the plant into roofing granules and shotblast grit, according to the IDEM inspection report.

Inspectors viewed the area where Gibbco, Inc. had once operated.

“Based on information provided by the current property owners and observations made while on-site, the entire approximately 17 acres appears to be covered with a minimum of approximately two feet of coal combustion waste,” the report states.

“There is also an area that is approximately four to five acres within the center of this area that contains coal combustion waste at depths as much as 20 feet.”

IDEM concluded that the coal combustion residuals’ “open dump” placement dating back to Gibbco’s operations did not comply with Indiana solid waste rules then, or with federal regulations on fly ash today.

In another inspection which took place October 10, IDEM officials looked over the old power plant site, which has been reduced from towering smoke stacks and multi-storied electric generating unit housings to merely an exposed basement footprint.

The inspectors discovered more exposed coal combustion waste on the east side of the property.

“Mr. (Russell) Becker (president of EnviroAnalytics Group) estimated the area containing the coal combustion waste to be approximately two acres in size with a depth of approximately five feet. At the time of the inspection, Mr. Becker stated that the company planned to either cover the area or remove the coal combustion waste,” according to the inspection report.

Inspectors also noted that scrap metal, brick, concrete and other solid wastes were separated into piles during demolition and found around the plant footprint. The materials are taken to off-site recycling or solid waste management facilities, the report states.

Results of the two inspections producing violations were forwarded to the IDEM Office of Land Quality’s Enforcement Section.

A map of the ash pond complex at the former Tanners Creek Power Plant site in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Image by Tanners Creek Development LLC.

The October violations appear to come as no surprise to Tanners Creek Development, which has been working the power plant site since purchasing the property in 2016.

“There are areas located on-site that functioned as ash management facilities while the power plant was in operation. TCD has been aware of these areas prior to acquiring the site in 2016 and is working with IDEM to provide proper regulatory closure,” John Kowalik, director of marketing and public relations for Commercial Development Company, tells Eagle Country 99.3.

Kowalik says the areas have not been further utilized for ash management or any other operation since the power plant was shut down in 2015.

“During a regular site inspection, IDEM cited these historical areas as violations to create an official work process to facilitate implementation of the remedial program. TCD is working to implement this process with the full cooperation and oversight of IDEM,” adds Kowalik.

As the work continues, Tanners Creek Development is working closely with IDEM to ensure the former power plant site is adequately prepared for future redevelopment, said Kowalik.

Lawrenceburg Mayor Kelly Mollaun says he has not had conversations with the company remediating the site, but he does speak with and trust IDEM to hold the property owner accountable.

“I am not glad there are violations, but I am glad that there is oversight and that these things are being identified, which I think is most important,” Mollaun says.

“We all want a clean site and we want the people doing the cleanup to do it the right way. I’m glad IDEM is staying on top of it.”

The two other inspections performed October 10 focused on the permitted fly ash pond and ash landfill, but neither identified any violations.

One was in response to an August 31 complaint that the property owners were allowing the fly ash pond to sit uncovered and that drains were being built that allowed water to run off the property. Inspectors did observe ash outside the inner bermed area of the pond, but they determined the material was contained within the footprint of the bottom-lined area.

Tanners Creek Development’s closure plan of the ash pond is currently under review by IDEM. The plan would cap the ash pond in place.

Four Indiana environmental groups including the Hoosier Environmental Council support an alternative closure plan to relocate the ash to a dry, lined landfill on higher ground.

In August, a federal court decision put fly ash closure plans at Tanners Creek and elsewhere across the country on hold as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been ordered to revise the rule and properly address the threats posed by the dump sites.

Ports of Indiana signed an $8 million purchase agreement with Tanners Creek Development in September of 2017. With Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb citing “environmental work plans for the land,” Ports of Indiana and Tanners Creek Development last month extended the agreement through June 30, 2019.

RELATED STORIES:

Ports Of Indiana, Tanners Creek Development Extend Purchase Agreement

IDEM: Lawrenceburg Ash Pond Closure Plan On Hold As Federal Cases Linger

Public Hearing For Tanners Creek Ash Pond Closure Plan Could Happen Oct. 11

Environmental Groups Urge IDEM To Deny Revised Fly Ash Pond Closure Plan

Tanners Creek Development, IDEM Answer Citizens On Fly Ash, Groundwater

After Out-Of-State Fly Ash Halted, Questions Over What's Already In The Ground At Tanners Creek

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