Middle Fork Of Vermilion Named To Endangered River List

Apr 11, 2018

Two fishermen test their luck on the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River at Kickapoo State Recreation Area. The Vermilion Power Station site is located north of the recreation area.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Stojak1 / CC0 1.0

The owner of the shuttered Vermilion Power Station says it’s looking at additional measures to prevent toxic coal ash stored at the site from leaking into the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River in east-central Illinois.

Dynegy had previously proposed capping the coal ash pits at the site. But Andrew Rehn with the Prairie Rivers Network says that’s not enough, in part, because the pits are unlined and could leak toxic heavy metals from the bottom.

"If Dynegy gets the cap, that’s probably going to be what we get. That means that years from now, if there’s a spill, or if the river starts rapidly degrading in quality, that’s going to be the public’s problem to deal with, if Dynegy’s able to cap and sell the property and leave.” Rehn says.

A spokesperson for Vistra Energy, which recently merged with Dynegy, says the company is now exploring additional measures, including possibly removing toxic materials from the coal ash pits for recycling.

Meanwhile, the group American Rivers has included the Middle Fork of the Vermilion on its annual list of endangered American rivers, because of the threat of pollution from the Vermilion Power Station coal ash pits.