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Remaining Beckjord power plant smokestack demolished Friday, leaving debris in Ohio River

Duke promises "safe" closure of toxic ponds
Posted at 10:25 AM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-05 15:52:47-04

NEW RICHMOND, Ohio — Debris from a smokestack demolished Friday morning at the retired Walter C. Beckjord power plant has fallen into the Ohio River, officials with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said.

After standing for more than 50 years, the last smokestack at the former plant came down Friday morning as part of a years-long demolition project at the site.

"Ohio EPA has been coordinating with the demolition contractor and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District about the demolition at the former Beckjord Power Station. The contractor is aware that some demolition debris is in the river and has indicated that they will be removing debris," the statement read in part.

The plant started operations in the 1950s and was built by Cinergy before the company was bought by Duke Energy in 2006. The plant was closed in 2014 before it was sold to Commercial Liability Partners in 2018.

The new owners said they planned to redevelop the area, but they have a lot of cleanup to get to before that can be a reality. The property's primary clean-up needs involve unlined ponds near the property, which are packed with coal ash, the toxic waste left over when coal is burned to make electricity. Coal ash contains arsenic, chromium and vanadium.

One of these unlined ponds was found to be polluting nearby ground water in Clermont County.

"That's something that we're very concerned about," Pierce Township trustee Allen Freeman said. "How is (the cleanup) process going to take place and what methods are they going to use to clean the site? … The devil is always in the details."

Under Ohio law, coal ash ponds are regulated as wastewater treatment lagoons. The state’s closure requirements depend on whether the coal ash is being left in place or removed, said James Lee, a spokesman for Ohio EPA.

Representatives from CLP said they planned to remove the coal ash from the ponds. Lee said the coal ash can therefore be taken to a landfill.

There is no word on when the cleanup process for these ponds will begin.