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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Utility Blames Engineers| for Giant Ash Spill

INDIANAPOLIS (CN) - Millions of gallons of coal ash polluted the White River when a dike at a coal-powered electric company failed in January 2008. Indianapolis Power & Light, which owns the Eagle Valley Generating Station in south central Indiana, sued the engineering company it hired to fix a previous break in the dike.

The coal ash, mixed with water into a sludge, is pumped through pipes to five ash ponds next to the power station. The ponds are separated and controlled by dikes, one of which failed in February 2007, according to the federal complaint.

The utility says it hired Fuller Mossbarger Scott and May Engineers to repair the dike and prevent such an accident from happening again. "The repair and reconstruction of the dikes was completed in October of 2008," according to the complaint.

This appears to be a typographical error, as the utility then complains of a second spill, which occurred on Jan. 30, 2008.

IPL claims the engineers misinterpreted the data relating to ash compaction and incorrectly engineered the shear strength angle of the dike. On Jan. 30, 2008, the dike failed, and "millions of gallons of ash and water" were dumped onto IPL property "and ultimately into the waters of the White River."

IPL was fined for environmental violations and charged for the cost of cleanup. It says the engineers guaranteed their work for one year. And it says that "Subsequent to the Jan. 30, 2008 failure, FMSM admitted making one or more errors which resulted in that failure."

IPL seeks damages for breach of contract, lost income and costs.

IPL also sued Stantec Consulting Corp. The utility is represented by Briane House with Norris Choplin & Schroeder.

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