Test Results Confirm: Black Dust Covering Oak Creek was Toxic Coal from We Energies Plant
Residents share concerns about toxins including lead, mercury, arsenic
Oak Creek, WI — The Clean Power Coalition of Southeast Wisconsin held a press conference announcing the results of independent testing that confirmed coal dust samples taken by the Environmental Accountability Group (EAG) and tested by Aspen Consulting, Inc. The black coal dust was found covering homes, cars, and even the playground in neighborhoods north of the Oak Creek and Elm Road Power Plants on Monday.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened. This is the first time they got caught. Coal dust blowing from the piles at these plants has been a problem for decades, and We Energies knows it. We want something done about it. We Energies won’t talk to us. The mayor won’t talk to us. We need help,” said Greg Millard a concerned local resident.
Coal dust contains toxic metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic. The health effects of inhalable particulate matter, include aggravation of asthma, respiratory symptoms, and an increase in hospital emissions, and increased mortality from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and from lung cancer. There is no safe level of coal dust exposure.
In January the group sent a letter asking We Energies for additional air quality monitoring equipment to be put on the north side of the plant, in the vicinity of this neighborhood. We Energies denied this request, saying that it was not necessary.
“I used to live in Caledonia just south of the plant. Myself, my wife, and my children became very ill and after only eight years we had to move. We Energies did testing twice and said there wasn’t a problem, but when we hired someone to do independent testing, we found coal and fly ash in our house. I started EAG because it was clear that We Energies can’t be trusted with protecting our health,” said Bill Pringle, President of Environmental Accountability Group.
Dana LaFontsee, a spokesperson for the Clean Power Coalition said “This power plant is co-owned by We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric, and WPPI. We’re calling on the customers of these utilities to demand action. You might not live in Oak Creek but the dirty energy you use still impacts the people that do. These utilities must move away from toxic coal and transition to renewable energy. Lives depend on it.”
The Clean Power Coalition-Southeast Wisconsin will educate the public about the dangers of burning coal on the health of those who live and work in the vicinity of We Energies’ South Oak Creek and Elm Road Power Plants. How we choose to generate electricity has consequences that reach far beyond the return on shareholder investment, affecting everything from public health to a stable climate. When air, water, and soil are polluted, health and life are put at risk. The Clean Power Coalition will promote public debate about the appropriate source of energy for Southeastern Wisconsin. At the same time, the coalition urges We Energies to: 1.) immediately contain the coal dust and other health hazards emanating from the Oak Creek plants, 2.) phase out its use of coal, and 3.) promote rather than obstruct the adoption of renewable energy throughout its service territory.
Clean Power Coalition convening member organizations: Eco Justice Center / Environmental Accountability Group / Greening Greater Racine / Racine Dominicans / Racine Green Party / Sierra Club, Beyond Coal Campaign / Sierra Club, Southeast Gateway Group / Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light / 350 Milwaukee
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