SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — An environmental group is raising concerns about MidAmerican Energy’s proposal to discharge contaminated water into the Missouri River.

The Iowa Environmental Council said the MidAmerican’s George Neal Energy Center would put contaminated water into the river. Like all coal-powered plants, Port Neal North produces coal ash which contains several toxic chemicals such as arsenic and mercury. The coal ash is stored in a landfill onsite. Water that passes through the coal ash, called leachate, also contains a level of toxic chemicals and is stored onsite in ponds.

MidAmerican Energy‘s plan would discharge the leachate into the river when there is high amounts of precipitation. Experts with the Iowa Environmental Council said leachate ponds do not sufficiently remove pollutants.

“The ponds that are being used the EPA has specifically called out for not being a reasonable technology because it doesn’t, basically, meet the national goal of reducing pollutants,” IEC’s energy policy manager, Steve Guyer, said. “They should certainly take greater steps to control and reduce the pollutant loading that is put into the river, and that includes actually implementing the standard the EPA is calling for.”.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations to reduce water pollution from coal-powered plants. It the proposal, the agency recommends chemical precipitation to treat leachate water.

KCAU 9 reached out to MidAmerican Energy for a statement regarding the Council’s criticism. The company responded with the following statement.

“The Iowa Environmental Council is mischaracterizing this proposal. MidAmerican has chosen the most stringent standards established by the EPA to protect public health and the environment including the newly proposed standards that IEC refers to. In a year of typical-to-high precipitation, the water that comes into contact with coal ash in the lined landfill, leachate, would not be released into the river. This proposal is an additional way to control and manage leachate, in the limited instances where it might be discharged during years with extremely high precipitation. Even then, if any of this wastewater does flow into the river, it meets water quality standards established by the EPA.”

MidAmerican Energy

MidAmerican’s proposal evaluates five potential plans to manage leachate. Currently, Port Neal North does not discharge any leachate. The proposal explains that discharging the leachate water into the Missouri River from the ponds is the most practical and cost-effective option. The entire proposal can be found here.

MidAmerican’s proposal is a part of the antidegradation process through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which applies whenever there are new discharges, which are federally regulated.

MidAmerican Energy has to accept public comments on its proposal. The Iowa Environmental Council has created a web page to help residents submit their comments before the April 14 deadline.