aescayuga plant120According to environmental consultant Mark Quarles, coal ash from the Cayuga Power Plant's landfill has gotten into groundwater on nearby properties for close to 30 years.  Quarles told the told the Tompkins County Planning, Energy and Environmental Quality Committeethat coal ash has flowed into Milliken Creek, and has contaminated nearby wells.

"There's undefined risk to human health in the environment for the landfill and its water-related discharges," he said.  "There's no doubt about it.  This pollution is not going away.  This is long term, and we've seen it: it's 29 years after the last unlined landfill was operated.  Contamination is persistent and it could be expected for decades."

Quarles, an owner and a senior consultant with Nashville-based Global Environmental, was hired last year to assist the county Environmental Review Committee in reviewing a discharge permit renewal to determine whether the plant meets solid waste disposal rules.  He said the landfill lacks adequate oversite, does not have the required number of monitoring wells for the area, and challenged Cayuga Operating Company's conclusions that the plant has contained pollution from the landfill.

coalash 400Mark Quarles

Quarles said he had reinterpreted data provided in the power plant's annual report.  His interpretation concluded that there is coal ash seepage is polluting Milliken Creek and possibly contaminating local ground water and private water wells.  He recommended Tompkins County hire a consultant and advocate to make sure state and federal waste regulations are adhered to.

"If the community is not involved in reading through the little bit of tricky, sometimes uncredible science...," he said.  "It says the sulfate is naturally occurring, to not worry about the concentrations, that Milliken Creek should not be monitored further and domestic water supplies in the area shouldn't be getting a lot of scrutiny -- that should create a lot of uncertainty and should create a lot of criticism for what's going on at the landfill."