Wabash fly ash ponds

Federal compliance reporting on coal combustion residuals in fly ash ponds at Duke Energy's shuttered Wabash River Generating Station show levels of arsenic, cobalt and lead higher than groundwater protection standards.

One coal fly ash pond at Duke Energy’s former Wabash River Generating Station has been approved for closure and post-closure plans.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management on Aug. 16 approved the closing plan for the South Ash Pond, closing 72.9 acres by leaving coal combustion residuals in place. 

However, IDEM continues to evaluate the closure of the approximately 80-acre Ash Pond A and a 7.8-acre secondary settling pond. IDEM indicates that upon closure, these ponds will be closed by removal of coal fly ash.

IDEM will also separately review closure of the North Ash Pond.

In March, mandatory federal groundwater testing found the ponds have contaminants at levels higher than groundwater protection standards. The electric power company on March 1 released its compliance data and reporting on the coal ash ponds at the now shuttered Wabash River Generating Station.

The figures show the ash ponds have high levels of arsenic, cobalt and lead. Coal ash, also known as fly ash, is the waste produced from burning coal and can contain harmful toxins. The samples were taken from 37 monitoring wells placed at the base of the coal ponds, which are not drinking water wells.

The Duke Energy South Ash Pond system is part of the former Wabash River Generating Station at 450 Bolton Road in West Terre Haute.

The South Ash Pond, constructed with a synthetic liner at its base, closure plan includes placing a geosythetic liner over the fly ash and place a minimum of five feet of fill to form a working platform for the construction of a final cover system, which includes 12 inches of uncompacted soil, 18 inches of uncompacted cohesive soil and 6 inches of vegetative soil.

The approved closure and post-closure plans are available for review at the Vigo County Public Library or at IDEM’s Virtual File Cabinet at vfc.idem.in.gov. The closure plan is SW Program ID 84-UP-09.

Any challenge to the decision must be made to the Office of Environmental Adjudication, Indiana Government Center North, Room N103, 100 N. Senate Avenue, Indianapolis, IN, 46204 or contact Anna Mishel, permit manager, at Amishel@idem.in.gov.

For more information on the review process, go to Office of Environmental Adjudication at www.in.gov.oea.

The Wabash River Generating Station was a six-unit station that was completed between 1953 and 1968. Its power units went online in 1953, 1958 and 1968. It was also the site of the 260-megawatt Wabash River Coal Gasification Repowering Project, owned by Wabash Valley Power Association and operated by Duke Energy.

The coal-fired power plant was shut down in 2016 as part of a 2013 settlement with the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch over issues with air permits at Duke’s Edwardsport power plant. Additionally, Duke had planned to retire the 1950s-vintage power units as a result of a federal mercury rule.

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