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Groundwater Contamination Reported At Three WY PacifiCorp Plants

Irina Zhorov of Wyoming Public Radio

Three PacifiCorp coal-fired power plants in Wyoming reported contamination of groundwater earlier this year above state or federal limits. That includes the Dave Johnston, Jim Bridger and Naughton plants. PacifiCorp reported detecting selenium, arsenic, lithium and many more polluting elements. A recent report from Earthjustice, a non-profit environmental law firm, drew attention to the information. It highlighted 67 plants across 22 states with the same problem.

The culprit is coal ash facilities at the plants — none of the storage pits at the PacifiCorp plants were lined. Spencer Hall, spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power, an operating entity of PacifiCorp, said contaminants in Wyoming groundwater aren’t quite as bad as in other states.


"They’re self-contained. They don’t have the access to the groundwater that is gonna enter into the aquifers and things that exist in other geographical parts of the country. Like, the geography of where our coal ash piles are is kind of ideal as far as containment,” Hall said.


He said that’s important, because contamination has not gotten into surface or drinking water at all through the contamination. A remediation plan will be announced in early 2019.


“We’ll be working with the state, what that looks like. And then in the community meetings, we’ll be announcing it. And we’ll be taking public input too,” Hall said, expecting public input to guide the plan as well.


He added PacifiCorp is fully in compliance with the Obama-era coal ash rule, which requires detecting and reporting contaminants, then implementing remediation. The Trump Administration finalized modifications to the rule this past summer which environmental groups - including Earthjustice - argue weakens it. In October, those groups filed a petition for review in a federal court.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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