Environmentalists warn of the effects of coal ash ponds at Gallagher Station
Gallagher Station has a handful of ponds with coal ash or waste right now. Work is already underway to close the basins before the plant.
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Towering high above the Ohio River and in the shadow of the Louisville skyline is a site that holds what environmentalist Jason Flickner considers to be one of the biggest concerns in the state of Indiana.
"Duke has been a major polluter, and it's impacted public health for decades," Flickner said.
Plans are in the works to retire Duke Energy's Gallagher Station by 2022. Flickner, with the Hoosier chapter of the Sierra Club, said just because the plant is going offline doesn't mean it will stop polluting New Albany.
"They want to leave nearly 10 million tons of coal combustion waste behind permanently," he said.
Gallagher Station has a handful of ponds caked with coal ash or waste right now. Work is already underway to close the basins before the plant. The way it's being done is what Flickner has a real problem with.
"Permanently, this will be leaching into the Ohio River and affecting ground water surrounding the plant," he said. "There are known birth defects that are associated with coal combustion residues as well as effects on aquatic life."
Angeline Protogere, a spokeswoman with Duke Energy, has heard concerns from groups like Flickner's and wants to the set the record straight.
"Our plan is to find a way to close these basins that's both protective to the environment and keeps cost to customers in mind," she said.
Some basins will be excavated while others will be de-watered with a synthetic liner placed on top. Protogere said Duke is doing it all by the book, with a commitment to monitoring for as long as necessary.
"There are a lot of eyes on this," Protogere said.
At the same time, the company has run into problems with coal ash in the past. In 2014, Duke Energy was fined millions for a big spill in North Carolina. A storm water drain failed under one of the basins.
WDRB's Chris Sutter asked Protogere, "Is it possible what happened in North Carolina could happen in New Albany, Indiana?" She responded, "We have taken every step to ensure that it does not."
For Flickner, that's not good enough. The only thing that will make him happy is if the coal ash is moved elsewhere.
"It will eventually be the problem of future generations," he said.
The Hoosier chapter of the Sierra Club is looking into filing an appeal for Duke Energy's plan with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
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