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Neighbors skeptical of Vermilion County coal ash cleanup plan

File picture of coal ash ponds at the Vermilion Power Plant, located in the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.

DANVILLE – About 30 people attended a public meeting in Danville on Thursday afternoon to hear plans to clean up three coal ash sites.

Texas-based Vistra Energy took over control of the old Dynegy site in 2018 following a corporate merger. Dynegy closed its coal-fired power plant along the Middlefork River back in 2011 leaving behind more than 3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash

Vistra outlined several cleanup options, inluding plans to dry and remove the coal for disposal off-site, as well as build a landfill on-site to minimize dust and other air pollution concerns.

Environmental groups in Vermilion County have put pressure on the site owners for years, citing serious risk to the state’s only scenic river.

Residents who spoke were skeptical about Vistra’s commitment to cleaning up the site and wonder whether or not the state of Illinois will keep its sights set on coal ash cleanup.

Alicia Henry, a former Vermilion County resident, made the drive from Bloomington for the hearing because her 90-year-old mother lives near the site. Henry says the family’s land is directly tied to the fate of the cleanup.

“We have so much that we’re going to be paying for, these mistakes of the past and I hope this company will actually do what they say they will and it will actually fix things,” said Henry.

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Tinisha Spain

Tinisha Spain

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