Power plant spewing soot all over town - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Power plant spewing soot all over town

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Soot from DTE Energy's Stoneman Station power plant in Cassville, Wis. lies on a nearby neighbor's driveway Soot from DTE Energy's Stoneman Station power plant in Cassville, Wis. lies on a nearby neighbor's driveway
Cassville, Wis. neighbor Ruth Adrian holds up her makeshift soot-measuring device, showing how much soot landed on these strips of tape over the course of a couple of days Cassville, Wis. neighbor Ruth Adrian holds up her makeshift soot-measuring device, showing how much soot landed on these strips of tape over the course of a couple of days
CASSVILLE, Wis. (KWWL) - People in one area city are fed up and speaking out, saying a nearby power plant is spewing soot into the air and all over their neighborhoods.

This is in Cassville, Wis., which shares that air with Iowa, just across the Mississippi River.

Sandy and Tom Raveling live less than a mile from the power plant and say they're sick of soot.

"Something needs to be done, and that's why I'm frustrated," Sandy Raveling said Wednesday afternoon.

"It's on the furniture, like this. Specks," Raveling said, running her hand along the plastic cover on her back patio table, creating small, dark smears as her fingers came into contact with the charred, black particles. "They're all over everything. On the cushions, on the grass, on my porch, on the railing. My car is covered. It lands on everything, that blows in from the power plant."

DTE Energy, based in Detroit, has owned and operated Cassville's Stoneman Station power plant since 2010, which is when neighbors say the trouble with soot began.

A group of people, some of whom live in Cassville and others who just work there, gathered at the Ravelings' house Wednesday afternoon to share their soot stories and evidence with KWWL.

One man brought several photos of his vehicles and driveway, a fine layer of soot visible in each. Somebody else brought the white rags she'd used to wipe her front patio furniture. They were dark with black smears and specks from the soot.

"This stuff is going through our screens, and we're breathing this in! And then they tell you that it's not a problem?" neighbor Ruth Adrian said, holding up a ruler with a number of pieces of masking tape attached to it, each strip dotted with dozens of small, black specks.

"It's not healthy," Adrian said. "We all feel like we're congested and we have a cold all summer long."

She said the soot problem has been happening all year long throughout the last four years.

Tom Raveling has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a respiratory condition he says is made worse by the soot.

The power plant burns wood products, such as tree trimmings, sawdust and railroad ties.

Over the course of the past four years, neighbors said they've called everybody they could think of, from politicians and the US Environmental Protection Agency to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and various health organizations, with no luck.

DTE Energy did not make anyone available for an on-camera interview Wednesday, but spokesperson Scott Simons said the company is aware the soot problem has been, "happening for awhile," though he said he did not know exactly how long.

He said the plant is testing this week for the source of the problem, but he added the plant is, "always operating within our state and federal permit levels for particulate matter."

"We want to get this stopped as much as our neighbors do," Simons told KWWL in a phone conversation. "We're trying to see why it's happening. This week we're doing particulate testing."

Over the past few weeks, Simons said, the plant has been operating at a lower level due to the soot problem, and this week the plant is operating at various capacities in order to identify the problem.

Tom Raveling, however, said he's found nothing but frustration in his personal attempts to contact DTE Energy.

"We get the same run-around every time. You know, 'We're testing.' 'We're within compliance.' 'We're this, we're that,'" Raveling said. "Nothing ever happens, just more excuses."

Cathy Nix is among those who work in a manufacturing plant across the street from the Ravelings' home. Depending on the direction of the wind on any given day, she and her co-workers can find a layer of soot on their vehicles after their shift is over.

The soot also blows into the plant's windows and can make workers there feel ill, she said.

"It is serious," Nix said. "If we're not listened to now, there could be, you know, major health problems, and then it's too late to doctor. The damage is already done."

Neighbors said they don't want the plant to close; they just want the company to finally fix its soot problem.

Sandy Raveling pointed out the plant is near the town's schools, so the soot is also falling on the students' playground and sports fields.
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