PCA checks on reports of ash near North Shore power plantThe Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is looking into complaints from Schroeder in Cook County of a chalky ash raining down on property near the Taconite Harbor Energy Center, a coal-burning plant operated by Minnesota Power.
By: Brittany Berrens, Lake County News Chronicle
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is looking into complaints from Schroeder in Cook County of a chalky ash raining down on property near the Taconite Harbor Energy Center, a coal-burning plant operated by Minnesota Power.
Ann Perry Moore, public information officer with the PCA, said an air inspector and emergency responder are following up on a report it received Monday of a stubborn white ash covering homes, lawns, and vehicles that will not wash away.
Amy Rutledge of Minnesota Power said the Taconite Harbor power plant experienced a tube leak in boiler number three. She said the leak released a large amount of pressurized steam, which they believe released an excessive amount of coal ash and flue gas.
“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Rutledge said. “It’s certainly not common.”
The leak was fixed, Rutledge said, and the mishap was not a reportable violation because the amount of coal ash released from the Energy Center did not exceed any permit limits. She said the ash is not harmful to humans. Though Minnesota Power is not required to report the violation, they told the PCA that a report would be filed by 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Steven Palzkill with the PCA said he had not seen a report. The report is to include a description of what happened, the extent of the materials released, and photos of the affected properties.
Schroeder resident Beryl Bissell said that sweeping the ash on her porch just smears it, and even heavy rainfall over the weekend didn’t take care of the problem. The substance also made its way into her home because the windows were open at the time. She says the inside of her house near the windows was covered in the gritty substance.
Bissell said that after spending the day Thursday in her writing shed, she walked out and noticed the ash substance covering her plants. Because she lives near a campground and could smell wood smoke, Bissell said at first she thought perhaps the ash came from a forest fire, but there were no reports of a forest fire in the area.
After talking with another Schroeder resident, Bissell suspected that the ash was from the Taconite Harbor Energy Center.
The resident Bissell spoke with said his wife was walking home from work last week when she heard an alarm go off at the plant, and she saw a thick white ash cloud spewing from the plant’s smokestacks. He said his wife had ash falling on her.
Neighbor Steve Lukas said his residence, driveway, solar landscaping lights, and new truck are all covered in the ash as well. He first arrived Monday to find the ash covering his property. “Things are certainly a mess,” Lukas said.
Rutledge says Minnesota Power is working to correct the problem and take care of the energy facility’s neighbors. After both Bissell and Lukas called Minnesota Power about the problem, Wade Roseth, the senior industrial hygienist with Allete Inc., Minnesota Power’s parent company, was in Schroeder Monday to survey the ash problem at Bissell’s and Lukas’ properties. Roseth took pictures and cleaning crews will come out to the properties today to take care of the ash, Rutledge said.
Moore said the MPCA continues to look into the incident.