Coal dust dispute between Oak Creek neighbors, We Energies reignites

Posted at 5:51 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-09 22:23:33-04

Neighbors living near the We Energies site in Oak Creek claim they found a fresh layer of coal dust on homes, vehicles and outdoor furniture over the weekend. 

But We Energies said there's no reason to believe the dust came from the piles of coal at its power plant. 

Neighbors in the area first complained of coal dust on their homes and cars back in March. Following the complaints, We Energies tested the dust and confirmed it came from one of the coal piles at the company's site in Oak Creek. 

Company officials have since apologized and held at least two meetings with neighbors. 

But Michelle Jeske, who lives just North of the plant, said she thinks the problem is continuing. 

Jeske said she found coal dust on two vehicles and an outdoor table over the weekend. She posted cellphone videos of people wiping dark dust off of those objects to her YouTube channel

"The coal dust is not contained, and I have four kids to worry about," Jeske said. "So we watch for it all the time." 

Jeske said the dust typically appears when there's been a lack of rain and/or when there are strong winds blowing towards her home from the South or Southeast. 

She's convinced the dust she discovered over the weekend isn't just dirt. 

"It's black and it stains your fingers," Jeske said. 

Jeske said her family worries about the impact of the dust on their respiratory health. 

"I don't think residents should be this close to the coal piles," Jeske said. 

She noted the largest coal pile, which We Energies recently took out of commission and coated in a hard crust as part of its dust mitigation efforts, is about 2-thousand feet from her home. 

In an email, a spokesperson for We Energies said, "I have checked with our personnel at the plant and verified that there is no indication at all that coal dust left our property last week." 

During a tour of the power plant in May, We Energies pointed out that, in addition to encrusting the largest pile of coal, the company has beefed up the standard for when it ceases operations at the coal piles due to wind. 

We Energies also continues to use water to keep the coal moist, and is planning to extend the berm between the encrusted coal pile and Jeske's neighborhood. 

Company officials previously told TODAY'S TMJ4 the large, encrusted pile would remain out of commission until it can be assured that no more dust will leave the property. 

"The mitigation effort you saw during your visit remain in effect," the company said.