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Ash, debris from bluff collapse removed

Nov. 03, 2011
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By Don Behm of the Journal Sentinel

Nov. 03, 2011 0

Workers Thursday removed all coal ash, soil and construction debris closest to Lake Michigan from Monday's bluff collapse at the We Energies' Oak Creek Power Plant, spokesman Brian Manthey said.

No estimate was available of the amount of ash and soil scooped off the shoreline from the widest part of the plume left behind in Monday's destructive landslide. The mix of ash and soil is being disposed of at a landfill on the power plant property, he said.

A contractor completed building a stone berm about 100 feet west of the shore early Thursday, enabling cleanup crews to begin work east of the berm.

Large debris, such as sections of a storage building destroyed in the mudslide and container units, were pulled out of the muck and dropped into garbage containers, Manthey said.

On top of the hill, south of the slope carved by Monday's landslide, workers on Thursday hooked cables to a total of four sheds and storage containers and pulled the structures farther south to prevent them from falling down the slope, Manthey said.

State Department of Natural Resources' officials are monitoring the cleanup, said Ann Coakley, director of the department's waste and materials management bureau.

Thursday's high waves on the lake prevented a separate contractor from continuing the skimming of fuel and other debris from the surface of the lake, Manthey said.

On Thursday, no fuel sheen was visible outside a pair of surface booms intended to contain the pollution, he said. The booms form semicircles on the lake.

A contractor's boat patrolled the shore up to five miles south of the landslide and did not observe floating debris or a fuel sheen, Manthey said.

Absorbent material was placed inside the first boom early Thursday to help remove fuel, Manthey said. The fuel is from a vehicle and construction equipment pushed into the lake by the force of the mudslide.

An undetermined volume of coal ash flowed into the lake in Monday's mudslide. An investigation into the cause of the bluff collapse is continuing.

In the 1950s, ash from the power plant was buried in a shoreline ravine and covered with soil.

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About Don Behm

Don Behm reports on Milwaukee County government, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, the environment and communities in southeastern Wisconsin. He has won reporting awards for investigations of Great Lakes water pollution, Milwaukee's cryptosporidiosis outbreak, and the deaths of three sewer construction workers in a Menomonee Valley methane explosion.

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