Midwest Gen settles water complaints with Illinois EPA

An Oct. 3 complaint about Clean Water Act matters at its coal-fired power plants should be dismissed as “frivolous” because it fails to state a cause of action upon which the Illinois Pollution Control Board can grant relief, said a Nov. 5 response from Midwest Generation.

Because the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Midwest Generation (MWG) have agreed to compliance activities through binding Compliance Commitment Agreements (CCAs), no disagreements exist between the agency and MWG. “Therefore, the complaint is frivolous because it fails to state a cause of action upon which the Board can grant relief,” said the company’s response.

The complaint was brought by the Sierra Club, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network, and Citizens Against Ruining the Environment. It relates to several company coal plants.

  • MWG owns and operates the Joliet #29 plant, located in Will County. Joliet #29 operates three active coal ash ponds; two are lined with a high density polyethylene (HDPE) liner, and the third is lined with a geocomposite liner, the company noted. In 2010, MWG installed eleven groundwater monitoring wells around the coal ash ponds. On June 11, the Illinois EPA issued a Violation Notice (VN) to MWG based upon the results from the groundwater monitoring wells. On Oct. 24, the Illinois EPA issued a CCA for the Joliet #29 that includes compliance activities to resolve allegations in the VN.
  • MWG owns and operates the Powerton plant in Pekin, Tazewell County. Powerton operates three active coal ash ponds, two of which are lined. MWG monitors the groundwater at Powerton in fifteen groundwater monitoring wells. On June 11, Illinois EPA issued a VN to MWG based upon the results from the monitoring wells. On Oct. 24, Illinois EPA issued a CCA that includes compliance activities to resolve allegations in the VN.
  • MWG owns and operates the Waukegan plant in Waukegan, Lake County. Waukegan operates two active coal ash ponds that are lined with an HDPE liner. In 2010, MWG installed five groundwater monitoring wells around the Waukegan ash ponds. On June 11, Illinois EPA issued a VN to MWG based upon the results from the monitoring wells at Waukegan. On Oct. 24, Illinois EPA issued a CCA for the Waukegan Station that includes compliance activities to resolve allegations in the VN.
  • MWG owns and operates the Will County plant in Romeoville, Will County. Will County operates four active coal ash ponds, all of which are lined with a geocomposite liner. In 2010, MWG installed ten groundwater monitoring wells around the Will County ash ponds. On June 11, Illinois EPA issued a VN to MWG based upon the results from the monitoring wells. On Oct. 24, Illinois EPA issued a CCA for Will County that includes compliance activities to resolve allegations in the VN.

All of the CCAs state MWG “shall comply with all provisions of this CCA,” and that pursuant to Section 42(k) of the Act, MWG is liable for an additional civil penalty of $2,000 for violation of any of the terms or conditions of the CCAs.

On Oct. 3, the environmental groups filed a seven-count complaint against MWG with the board. Counts 1, 2 and 3 (open dumping) allege violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (Act) at the Powerton, Waukegan, and Will County plants. Counts 4, 5, 6 and 7 allege violations of Section 12(a) and (d) of the Act at Powerton, Waukegan, Will County, and Joliet #29. All the counts are based on the same facts and the same groundwater data as each of the Illinois EPA VNs, Midwest Generation noted. “The complaint should be dismissed as duplicative because the underlying facts and allegations are substantially similar to those in the VNs, and the relief requested is resolved by the CCAs,” the company said.

Company agrees with IEPA on stringent water control measures

The company said about what it has to do under the CCAs: “In the CCAs for each generating station, MWG agreed to take significant and effective measures to resolve the alleged violations. MWG will continue to use the ash ponds as treatment ponds to precipitate ash and will continue to remove the ash from the ponds on a periodic basis. MWG will also maintain and operate the ash treatment ponds such that the integrity of the liners is maintained, including operating the ash removal equipment in a manner that minimizes the risk of any damage to the liners.”

The Nov. 5 filing added: “During the ash removal process, MWG will visually inspect the ash treatment pond liners and implement a corrective action plan for repair should MWG identify any signs of a breach in the liner. MWG will continue monitoring the existing groundwater monitoring wells on a quarterly basis and submit the results to Illinois EPA. Finally, MWG will submit a certification of compliance to the Illinois EPA upon completion of compliance activities in each of the CCAs. Notably, for all of the CCAs, MWG will complete all of the compliance activities within a year of the effective date. If MWG does not accomplish the compliance activities in the CCAs, MWG will be subject to enforcement and to an additional penalty of $2,000.”

Midwest Generation said in its Nov. 1 Form 10-Q statement about this matter: “In October 2012, Midwest Generation and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency entered into Compliance Commitment Agreements outlining specified environmental remediation measures and groundwater monitoring activities to be undertaken at its Powerton, Joliet, Crawford, Will County and Waukegan generating stations. Also in October 2012, several environmental groups filed a complaint before the Illinois Pollution Control Board against Midwest Generation, alleging violations of the Illinois groundwater standards through the operation of coal ash disposal ponds at its Powerton, Joliet, Waukegan and Will County generating stations. The complaint requests the imposition of civil penalties, injunctive relief and remediation.”

Midwest Generation is an affiliate of Edison Mission Energy and Edison International (NYSE: EIX).

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.