Coal Ash Spills in Lake Michigan

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Check out this photo that Mark Hoffman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal snapped on Monday of a dam collapse at a coal ash pond:

Mark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal SentinalMark Hoffman/Milwaukee Journal Sentinal

The Journal Sentinel reports that a large section of a bluff used to contain coal ash at the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant broke on Monday, dumping ash and dirt into Lake Michigan. As you can see in the photo, a truck and some heavy machinery were also pushed into the lake. One of the first responders in the area noted that the debris “stretched 120 yards long and 50 to 80 yards wide at the bottom.” A spokesman for the company told the paper that the dam probably did contain coal ash, but said that they’d stopped dumping it there “several decades ago.”

The spill calls to mind the catastrophic dam break at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennessee, back in December 2008. That spill dumped 1.1 billion gallons of coal slurry, and prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider how coal waste is handled. Although the EPA was on course to reclassify coal leavings as “hazardous waste” that needed special handling, that rule has been stuck in bureaucratic wrangling for more than two years. So for now, it’s still perfectly legal to store coal ash waste in retention ponds that are likely not lined or particularly well maintained.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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