LENEXA, KAN. (NOV. 8, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a settlement under the Agency’s Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) program with Evergy Kansas Central Inc. at the company’s retired Tecumseh Energy Center coal-fired power plant in Tecumseh, Kansas.
In the settlement, Evergy will take certain actions to address potential groundwater contamination from a CCR impoundment at the Tecumseh site, under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
“EPA is committed to ensuring that coal ash surface impoundments and landfills operate and close in a manner that protects public health and the environment,” said Larry Starfield, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “The action will require Evergy to investigate and determine the extent of contamination from their operations.”
“EPA is encouraged by Evergy’s willingness to work cooperatively with EPA on this coal ash matter and its commitment to protecting Kansas waters,” said EPA Region 7 Administrator Meg McCollister. “This settlement is an important step forward in the federal government’s nationwide effort to ensure energy providers clean up the harmful effects of CCR pollution.”
The settlement requires Evergy to assess the nature and extent of CCR 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, then it will meet with EPA to discuss next steps. The company will also pay a civil penalty of $120,000.
Produced primarily from the burning of coal in coal-fired power plants, 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 Nov. 7. In the agreement, EPA alleges that Evergy did not meet certain requirements under the CCR program, including:
- Failure to adequately prepare annual groundwater monitoring and corrective action reports.
- Failure to comply with groundwater monitoring system requirements.
- Failure to comply with groundwater sampling and analysis requirements.
- Failure to complete an assessment monitoring program.
- Failure to comply with CCR impoundment closure and post-closure reporting requirements.
Evergy is a utility company engaged in the generation, purchase, transmission, distribution, and sale of electricity in Kansas and is headquartered in Topeka and Kansas City. The Tecumseh coal-fired power plant began operations in 1925 and was retired from operations 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 a comprehensive set of 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 is increasing its efforts and working with its state partners to investigate compliance concerns at coal ash facilities around the nation to ensure compliance and protect the health of communities overburdened by pollution such as coal ash residuals.
For more information on coal ash and the Agency’s CCR program activities, please visit EPA’s Coal Ash (CCR) website.