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We Energies promises steps to prevent coal dust at Oak Creek meeting

OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Concerned neighbors in Oak Creek heard directly from We Energies in the first face-to-face meeting since coal dust covered homes and cars and even a playground near the plant in Oak Creek March 5th.

About 150 people showed up to the Oak Creek Public Library and roughly 30 voiced their concerns about the plant. The Clean Power Coalition Southeast Wisconsin ran the meeting. When We Energies took the microphone, they apologized.

"I have to say, first of all, I'm very sorry for the incidents that have caused us to be here this evening," said Tom Metcalfe, We Energies Executive Vice President

Metcalfe says he took a close look at the Oak Creek operations over the last few weeks, and they said they've found a way to eliminate the coal dust from settling into Oak Creek neighborhoods.

"We take our responsibilities to you all very seriously. So one of the things we're going to do. We're going to lower, flatten the new coal pile. We're going to encrust it with an agent that will seal it tight. It will create a 4-inch barrier on the top of the coal," said Metcalfe.

We Energies says they plan to build a barrier around the coal pile. They also plan to put trees, windscreens, and air monitors at the plant to prevent coal dust from getting to neighborhoods.

Before they spoke, the We Energies executives listened at the meeting. We Energies Vice President of Coal Units and the Vice President of We Energies environmental group also attended.

Attendees top concerns were health, property values, and clean energy.

A mother shared when she lets her children outside to play, she expects them to get full of dirt, but not full of coal dust. "The more I looked, the more I saw it."

One neighbor showed samples of the coal dust taken from her window sill. Another neighbor explained that his air filters always come out black.

"How dirty are you going to make this? People ought to be afraid of you. They should be running in fear. You guys are an ecological disaster to southeastern Wisconsin," said neighbor Charles Michna as the crowd clapped.

One person approached the microphone without concern. An Oak Creek coal plant worker told the crowd he didn't believe health is a concern. He added that he doesn't know anyone who works in the plant that has health issues from the coal.

"The coal is dirty. Absolutely. It's hell to get out of your laundry. Absolutely. As far as it being a respiratory issue, I'm not aware of that," he said.

The entire meeting was streamed live. Click here to watch it on the Clean Power Coalition Southeast Wisconsin's Facebook page.

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