Coal ash forum set for Feb 25 in Georgetown

The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club is hosting “Coal Ash in Your Backyard,” a free community forum on the problems surrounding the piles of contaminated coal ash stored at the Indian River Power Plant. The forum will be held Wednesday, Feb 25, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. The forum will be held at the Council Chambers of the Sussex County Administrative Office Building, at 2 The Circle, Georgetown.

The speakers will be Dr. Chad Tolman, a retired DuPont chemist and visiting University of Delaware scientist; John Austin, a toxic waste expert, formerly with the EPA; and Bill Zak, co-founder of Citizens for Clean Power.

Coal ash is the solid waste left when coal is burned. Coal ash contains known carcinogens and neurotoxins, such as mercury and arsenic, that are soluble in water. There are three different coal ash storage issues at NRG’s Indian River facility:

• One is the pile of coal ash along the shore of Burton’s Island, unlined and only protected against wind, tide and flood by a bulkhead and membrane, which can allow contaminants to leach through;

• The second is a 100-foot-high unlined, unprotected pile that is nearing capacity;

• The third is the permitted but not yet constructed new coal-ash storage pit that will employ new protective measures, including seven separate layers of containment.

“Common sense says that if the newest pit requires such extraordinary protection, the existing pits should also,” organizers of the event said this week. “And many coal burning power plants do not store their waste on site, so why must NRG in such an environmentally fragile location as the confluence of the Indian River and the Delaware Inland Bay?”

“Could sloppy coal ash storage be responsible for any part of the cancer cluster surrounding the Millsboro plant, which accounts for 47 percent of the industrial pollution measured in Delaware?” they asked.

The public is welcome to attend this free event, become informed and ask questions.