CIB board votes to speed up coal ash clean-up

The Center for the Inland Bays board of directors voted at their quarterly meeting this week to pass a resolution concerning coal-ash mitigation for the Phase I and Delmarva landfills at Indian River Generating Station.

Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) Secretary Ron Wuslich re-read to board members the resolution that the CAC had previously voted to present to the board. Citing concerns about the health effects of contaminants in coal ash and its ultimate effect on groundwater, and citing the recent accident in Tennessee and one locally, the CAC decided to ask that the clean-up be sped up from its original two-year timeframe to no later than October of 2010.

They also asked that the mitigation planning be removed from the discretion of NRG and placed in the hands of “a panel of scientific experts in the field of coal ash recovery/restoration.”

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara asked other board members what the voting protocol had been in the past, because the board was in essence “indirectly directing DNREC to do something” and DNREC Secretary is a position that carries with it a position and vote as part of the CIB board. Board Chairman Rick Healy advised him that the Secretary usually recuses himself in such a vote, so the vote was taken with O’Mara recusing himself.

Board member Joanne Cabry said she liked the resolution but wanted to change from passive voice to be more direct and specific and to replace “and placed in the hands of,” with specific wording about the scientific panel. The board discussed where such experts might come from, and Wuslich said he would like to have independent experts from area universities be involved.

Sergio Huerta of the CIB Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee offered his reservations about shortening the time frame and said he wanted to make sure that there was ample time to do “good science.”

Wuslich said Huerta had made a good point and that he wouldn’t object to lengthening the time frame if need be, but, he added, “Nevertheless, we have known about this for years.”

The board ultimately decided that they would state in the resolution that more time could be requested than the one year stated, if need be, and the specific panel would be appointed by either the DNREC Secretary or governor.

Sussex County Engineer Mike Izzo asked if there were imminent threats to groundwater and if they are monitoring wells to see if there was currently any leaking from the unlined landfills.

“We do know that heavy metals in Burton’s Island exceed DNREC standards,” answered Wuslich.

“The correlation is there,” said O’Mara. “We need more science to come up with a better solution.”