Coal burning to natural gas, More's Lake may get restored

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COLUMBIA - Due to a new federal regulation from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Municipal Power Plant will need to clean up More's Lake. 

Before the power plant was built, in the late 1890s, the lake was built as part of a farm estate. According to Power Production Superintendent Christian Johanningmeier, the current plant dates from 1914 and then sometime after World War II, the plant started using the lake for ash handling.

The Municipal Power Plant used to burn coal to produce energy, but since Sept. 2015, it switched to using natural gas. 

"When we burned coal, the ash would collect in the basement. We would pump water out of the lake into the basement, and then mix it with the ash," Johanningmeier said. 

Johanningmeier said after the coal mixed with the ash, it was pumped back into the lake where it was removed from the water. The Municipal Power Plant had been doing this process until September of 2015. 

The halt of this coal cooling process is due to the EPA's Coal Combustion Residual rules. In order to be in compliance with those rules, Columbia Water and Light needs to remediate the ash from More's Lake. 

"Our plan is to haul the ash to the city landfill and dispose of it there," Johanningmeier said. "We've determined that's the most cost-effective way to deal with the ash and be in compliance with the regulations." 

Johanningmeier also said that they hope to begin hauling the ash soon because the process can take up to two-to-three years. 

"It's not a very complicated project. It's just reclaiming the ash, loading it into the dump trucks, hauling it to the landfill, and just continuously doing that," Johanningmeier said. 

After the removal process has finished, the pond will be able to have water in it once again. More's Lake will then be used for storm water retention at the power plant. 

"We still burn natural gas here at the plant, and we still have water flows from that," Johanningmeier said. "We have a relatively large sit here and to be in compliance with the city's storm water regulations, we need to retain the storm water and regulate the flow of storm water." 

In order for Columbia Water and Light to move forward with this excavation, the city council needs to authorize staff to move forward. They will vote on it Monday night.


Editor's note: has edited this story to correct a factual error. The EPA creates regulations but does not pass laws. KOMU regrets the error.