New Safeguards to Protect Groundwater Supply near Coal Ash Pits Signed into Law

Legislation that establishes strict procedures for the storage, care and closure of coal ash pits in Illinois was signed into law this week. State Representative Grant Wehrli (R-Naperville) was a leading House Republican sponsor of the environmental safeguard bill.

SB 9, now listed in the Illinois Statutes as PA 101-0171, requires the state to adopt federally-enforceable rules for the ponds where waste from coal power plants is disposed. “Coal ash contains mercury, arsenic, barium, and other toxic contaminants,” said Wehrli. “It’s a common form of industrial waste in our state, and is extremely harmful to both humans and fish. The contaminants are known to cause birth defects, cancer and neurological damage. When stored in unlined pits, coal ash poses a real threat to the groundwater supply.”

The new law requires coal ash impoundment owners to submit to the EPA safe site closure options and a fee structure for coal plants. The legislation also sets fees and penalties for the closing process. Wehrli said the fees would allow for the hiring of hydrologists and engineers to help ensure safe closing of coal ash pits. The new law took effect immediately upon its signing on July 30.