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For years, citizen groups in Vermilion and Champaign counties have been expressing concern over the 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash stored dangerously close to the Middle Fork River.

This ash is leaking toxic chemicals into groundwater and the Middle Fork, and its dangerous proximity to the river risks catastrophic collapse of the berms, as has happened in Tennessee and North Carolina.

We’ve been asking the state agencies and local legislators to create regulations and laws that require safer ways of storing this ash.

During this last year, Sen. Scott Bennett introduced Senate Bill 9, the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act, and was joined by 31 other senators as co-sponsers. In the State House of Representatives, Reps. Carol Ammons and Mike Marron co-sponsored this bill. After passing the Legislature, the bill was referred to Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature on July 30.

This law empowers state agencies to create rules that regulate how owners of coal-fired electrical generation stations must store coal ash during operation and after site closure.

To ensure an opportunity for public insput, the Illinois EPA has scheduled six public hearings in different state locations. The hearing of immediate interest to local citizens will be held at Bremer Auditorium, 2000 E. Main St., Danville, on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 8 p.m.

Please attend one of these sessions to express your concerns about the coal ash impoundments along the Middle Fork and how the IEPA should propose strong rules to regulate toxic coal ash ponds.