We Energies asks DNR for permission to release more dangerous chemicals into Lake Michigan

NOW: We Energies asks DNR for permission to release more dangerous chemicals into Lake Michigan

RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- People in Racine County are banding together to take the fight to We Energies.

The utility company has asked the DNR for permission to discharge more dangerous chemicals into Lake Michigan.

The We Energies power plant in Oak Creek discharges mercury into the water as part of its operations.

1.3 parts per trillion is the allowable level of mercury; We Energies has applied to raise its daily limit to 4.1 parts per trillion.

“No one in southeast Wisconsin should be happy with this,” Frank Michna, a neighbor to the plant, said. “This is ridiculous.”

During the last five years, the plant’s average discharge has been 1.26 parts per trillion.

Brendan Conway with We Energies cites that number as a way to show this request to the DNR is just about making room for occasional fluctuations up to higher levels.

“That’s not something that’s happening very consistently or very often and people should know what is really happening more often is that we’re at or below that 1.3 number,” Conway said.

People who live nearby don’t feel Conway’s point is relevant.

“An average is very different than the day to day amount that’s coming out and that’s what’s affecting the neighbors,” said Rejane Cytacki, the executive director of the EcoJustice Center.

Conway also said other wastewater treatment plants nearby have similar, or even higher, mercury discharge limits.

Michna believes the allowable mercury discharge should be lowered to zero.

“Plants, animals, everything is at risk here,” he said. “We get our drinking water from Lake Michigan.”

The DNR is taking public comment until the end of business next Monday. You can email Jason.Knutson@wisconsin.gov.

A decision will then be made in the months to follow.

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