FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2015
Victory for Great Lakes Protection: SS Badger Car Ferry Forced to Stop Dumping Toxic Coal Ash into Lake Michigan
Environmental Law & Policy Center and Partners Declare Victory
Chicago – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and partners declared a victory for cleaning up the Great Lakes following the successful campaign and federal court consent decree to require the SS Badger car ferry to stop dumping 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan each summer. Today, the SS Badger car ferry is scheduled to go across Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, WI, to Ludington, MI, with a new coal ash containment system in place. Step-by-step, our Great Lakes are getting cleaner.
“This is a victory for a cleaner Lake Michigan and a step in the right direction for reducing toxic pollution of the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It reaffirms the principle that no business, including the SS Badger, should be permitted to use the Great Lakes as a dumping ground for pollution.”
This victory follows a strong campaign led by the Environmental Law & Policy Center with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and partners at the Alliance for the Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and others.
“All bad things should come to an end, and this water pollution is,” said Learner. “This summer, the SS Badger will not be dumping nearly 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.”
The 60-year-old SS Badger is the last coal-burning ship on the Great Lakes. For too many years, the resulting coal ash – containing toxic materials – was moved from the ship’s boilers to an on-board retention area, where it was mixed with Lake Michigan water and then discharged into the lake as toxic slurry. Public pressure and the SS Badger’s continued pollution led to an action by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that resulted in a binding consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan.
Following the public campaign and consent decree, SS Badger operators installed new digital combustion controls that enable the ship to run more efficiently, burning about 15% less coal on its trips from Manitowoc, WI, to Ludington, MI. The new system will now move the coal ash along a conveyor belt between the ship’s boilers and four containment bins. Those bins will later be moved to an appropriate land-based site, possibly for re-sale as a cement filler. This kind of “encapsulated reuse” is one of the better scenarios for handling toxic coal ash.
“While the SS Badger still burns coal and emits it into the air, stopping the dumping of coal ash into Lake Michigan is a very good step in the right direction,” Learner added.