As a century-old power plant on the shores of Lake Michigan shuts down, some residents and activists are warning the region’s water supply could be at risk.

Over the next few years, Northern Indiana Public Service Company, or NIPSCO, is retiring the 130-acre Michigan City Generating Station, which has been burning coal for electricity for nearly a century.

It’s also cleaning up decades of coal ash byproduct. But advocates say the coal ash NIPSCO plans to leave on the site puts groundwater and Lake Michigan in danger of contamination in Michigan City and beyond…

“Rules like these in which hundreds of millions, billions of dollars are at stake, as well as public health and the environment, those are often litigated,” said Mark Templeton, who leads the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at University of Chicago.

Templeton says there’s been a lot of regulatory back and forth during the past three presidential administrations over the coal ash rule currently in place, which came after a 2008 spill in Tennessee.

“More than a billion gallons of coal ash waste basically breached and flooded 300 acres nearby, went into local waterways, the Tennessee River, killed lots and lots of fish,” Templeton said. “There were lots of workers involved in cleaning up that massive spill and many of those workers later have developed complications which they attribute to exposure.”

Templeton says as more coal fired plants go offline, it’s key to remember how climate change and more extreme weather might affect leftover coal ash – especially since so many generating stations are located near waterways.

“We’re seeing 100-year flood events occur a couple times a decade. The engineering needs to take this into consideration,” he said…

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Areas of Focus: Environment
Definition
Environment
Producing and using energy damages people’s health and the environment. EPIC research is quantifying the social costs of energy choices and uncovering policies that help protect health while facilitating growth.
Environmental Health
Definition
Environmental Health
Energy and industrial processes introduce toxins into the environment. EPIC research is helping to educate policymakers and consumers on the social and economic costs of this pollution, and the potential...
Abrams Environmental Law Clinic
Definition
Abrams Environmental Law Clinic
The Abrams Environmental Law Clinic attempts to solve some of the most pressing environmental problems throughout Chicago, the State of Illinois, and the Great Lakes region.