2015-08-23 CPLC Press Release

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Clean Power Lake County Campaign Hosts Second Annual Beach Cleanup in Waukegan

Local Citizens Impacted by NRG Coal Plant Embrace a Vision
of a Pollution-Free Lakefront That More Visitors Can Enjoy

WAUKEGAN, ILL. (August 23, 2015) — Approximately 120 Lake County residents came together today at Waukegan’s municipal beach to celebrate the lakefront and to renew calls to protect this treasured asset from pollution—whether that pollution is trash in the sand, mercury in the water, or toxins in the air.

From senior citizens to toddlers, these citizens swept the beach near NRG’s coal-fired power plant as part of Clean Power Lake County’s second annual beach cleanup. The NRG plant, a large source of carbon pollution in Lake County, was named one of the nation’s worst environmental justice offenders in a 2012 NAACP report.

“We have a long legacy of corporate pollution here in Waukegan—and one major polluter, NRG Energy’s coal-fired power plant, is still here less than one mile up the beach,” said lifelong Waukegan resident Maryfran Troha of Christ Episcopal Church and the League of Women Voters of Lake County. “The coal plant is one of the oldest and dirtiest in the country, and is the largest source of air and water pollution in Lake County.”

The coal plant spews 94 pounds of mercury into the air each year and pumps 4.7 million gallons of wastewater into the lake every day, Troha said. In addition, its coal ash ponds, which sit along the lakeshore, leak dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, boron and mercury into the water.

“For too long, corporate polluters like NRG Energy have taken advantage of our lakefront and made our families sick. I’m sick of it. I’m ready for a clean Waukegan for all of us because we deserve so much better,” Troha said.

“One of the many challenges we face as a community is air pollution and very high rates of asthma,” said Celeste Flores of Most Blessed Trinity Catholic Parish. “In 2012, the Lake County Health Department conducted a pediatric asthma assessment and found that 32 percent of children in Waukegan and North Chicago had been diagnosed with asthma or exhibited asthmatic symptoms. Across Illinois, that number is 9 percent. Across the U.S., that number is 8 percent. Waukegan is so much worse because a significant source of air pollution that puts our families at risk is NRG Energy’s coal plant on the lakefront.”

It’s time to embrace a vision of a beautiful lakefront that is protected in a sustainable way so more local residents and visitors can enjoy it, Flores said.

“Lake Michigan and the Waukegan lakefront are the crown jewels of Lake County,” said Waukegan Fourth Ward Alderman David Villalobos. “Our lakefront represents our community’s hope for a brighter future. Clean Power Lake County is working on lakefront vision tours to encourage community members to think about what the lakefront should be like. Both as a member of the city council and the Clean Power Lake County coalition, I want to know your vision for our lakefront and a clean Waukegan.”

The most immediate way to support the vision of a clean Waukegan, Flores concluded, is by attending the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act hearing on September 2. The hearing, which will focus on the operating permit for the coal-fired power plant in Waukegan, will be held at Illinois Beach State Park Resort, 1 Lakefront Drive, Zion, IL 60099.

For more information about the IEPA hearing, contact Alex Morgan at 313-580-9322 or alex.morgan@sierraclub.org.

About the Clean Power Lake County Campaign

The Clean Power Lake County Campaign aims to bring the Lake County community together to build a just future based on clean air, clean water and a revitalized lakefront in Lake County. The coalition consists of the Agg’in Tribe, Christ Episcopal Church of Waukegan, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Exchange Club of North Chicago, Faith in Place, Incinerator Free Lake County, League of Women Voters-Lake County, Most Blessed Trinity Parish of Waukegan, NAACP’s Lake County Branch, the Respiratory Health Association, the Sierra Club Woods & Wetlands Group, Waukegan Community Church and the Waukegan Bike Project.