Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials are working with We Energies to address issues with a bluff that collapsed Monday.
We Energies personnel are primarily responsible for the cleanup of the site. Their main concerns include the stability of the area around the collapse and the impact of the fly ash and oil on the water quality and the environment.
Years ago, a heavy piece of steel was driven into the ground to form a barrier to make the area near the bluff stable and to halt the erosion process, but when the bluff collapsed so did the steel. The steel protected the roads, but it was damaged by the slide so officials have been trying not to take heavy equipment on it until they sort out whether the area is stable, said Frank Schultz, a waste and materials management supervisor for the DNR.
“Since the event, we’ve been trying to assess the site conditions with We Energies,” Schultz said. “They are still responsible for the cleanup, so they are taking the lead role and taking the responsibility to hire the contractors. We’re trying to figure out if anything else is unstable before we start the cleanup.”
Another area of concern includes the fly ash and oil that went into the water. More than 20,000 cubic yards of fly ash is estimated to have slid down the bluff and about 10 percent of that made it into the lake, but those are his rough estimates, Schultz said.
Water samples were taken from the area water utilities, but the water quality hasn’t changed.
“It’s not surprising because the water intake is not in close proximity of the slide,” Schultz said.
Still, the DNR will need to continue to get water samples from the utilities, but there’s a good chance that it won’t have any impact on the water quality, Schultz said. The Coast Guard also has booms out to capture as much oil as possible and there have been some attempts at skimming the oil off of the surface.
Schultz explained that the fly ash from the bluff was generated from the late 1950s and early 1960s when there weren’t any regulations on land filling. Once the area is stabilized, the fly ash that didn’t slide into the lake will be taken to a licensed landfill.
“We’re trying to recover as much as possible,” he said. “But we’re hoping that what did make it into the lake is going to be diffused by the lake with the wave action.
"It’s not what we want to happen. You don’t want waste to go into the lake, but there’s a good chance we’ll never measure any impact to the water supply. It’s going to be material that sinks to the bottom of the lake. We don’t think it’s going to be a big human health impact."