The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it reached a settlement under its Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) program with Evergy Kansas Central Inc. at the utility’s retired Tecumseh Energy Center coal-fired power plant in Tecumseh, Kansas.

In the settlement, Evergy agreed to address potential groundwater contamination from a CCR impoundment at the Tecumseh site, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

The settlement requires Evergy to assess the nature and extent of contamination at a CCR impoundment at the Tecumseh site. Evergy will install additional monitoring wells, conduct groundwater sampling and analysis, and update closure plans for the facility’s CCR impoundment. 

If Evergy determines that remediation is necessary, it will meet with EPA to discuss next steps. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $120,000.

Energy said that some CCR units at its Lawrence Energy Center and Sibley Generating Station had earlier moved into “corrective action.” 

EPA said that CCR is a large industrial waste stream by volume and can contain harmful levels of contaminants such as mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and cobalt. Without proper management, contaminants from CCR can pollute waterways, groundwater, drinking water, and the air.

The administrative settlement was finalized on November 7. In the agreement, EPA alleged that Evergy did not meet certain requirements under the CCR program, including:

The Tecumseh coal-fired power plant began operations in 1925 and was retired in 2018. According to EPA, Evergy identified CCR contaminants leaching into groundwater from an impoundment at the Tecumseh facility in 2018, and did not fully comply with the CCR program to adequately address the contamination.

To address the risks from disposal and discharge of coal ash, including leaking of contaminants into groundwater, blowing of contaminants into the air as dust, and the catastrophic failure of coal ash surface impoundments, EPA established national rules for coal ash management and disposal.

In April 2015, EPA promulgated requirements for the safe handling and disposal of coal ash from coal-fired power plants, which established technical requirements for CCR landfills and surface impoundments.

EPA said it is increasing its efforts to investigate compliance concerns at coal ash facilities around the nation to ensure compliance and protect the health of communities that is said are “overburdened” by pollution such as coal ash residuals.

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