In the Water
Indiana is one of the top 10 coal-producing states in the U.S. It also has the largest number of coal ash disposal sites in the country. Coal ash is the waste product of burning coal for electricity. It’s full of heavy metals and other toxic substances that have leached into the ground water of Indiana communities.
In the Water follows the complex discussions around Indiana’s most traditional energy source. It speaks to everyone from the miners who dig coal from the ground, to environmental activists fighting for coal ash disposal legislation and clean water, to residents whose health has been affected by coal ash pollution.
It also looks to the future, exploring possible alternative uses of coal ash and ways to improve the quality of water for Indiana citizens.
Once the pipes to municipal water were connected, residents thought their problems with coal ash were behind them. However, they soon learned of the possible dangers that came from coal ash being used as fill in yards and areas around Pines.
Coal combustion waste became a larger problem after amendments were made to the Clean Air Act in 1988.
Coal ash can be turned into beneficial use products such has concrete or bricks, encapsulating the ash safely.
The EPA estimates that a person living near coal ash has a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer. That is a risk 2000 times the EPA's regulatory goals.
There are still 38 homes in the Town of Pines not connected to municipal water from Michigan City.
The majority of coal ash in Indiana is held in unlined surface impoundments. The metals from the ash can leach into the ground water and contaminate it over time.
To keep electricity rates as low as possible and because coal ash was exempt from waste handling laws, utilities did what was least expense and stored it in ponds.
Indiana is the 8th largest coal producer in the US and the mining industry contributed around $2 billion to the state economy in 2018.
One million tons of coal ash from a NIPSCO power plant was housed over the Town of Pines aquifer and contaminated the residents water supply.
The state of Indiana has more coal ash than any other state, with 86 known coal ash impoundments.
Coal ash is what’s left over after burning coal for electricity. Seventy percent of Indiana’s electricity is generated by coal-fired power plants.