Since 1955 the Vermilion Power Plant has been storing toxic coal ash in three ponds next to the Middle Fork Vermilion River near Oakwood, Illinois

Loose regulations allow coal ash to threaten river
Middle Fork River at risk from Dynegy coal ash ponds

Each year thousands of families boat down the Middle Fork branch of the Illinois Vermilion River below an embankment that holds back 3.3 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge stored in three large ponds. Coal ash pollution is leaching into the river, and the riverbank is eroding under the ponds. We examine what's a stake in this investigative report.

Erosion on the bank of the Middle Fork River near the Dynegy coal ash ponds

Riverbank near coal ash ponds found unstable
Residents, environmentalists worry about a possible collapse

Environmentalists and community members in Vermilion County have expressed deep concern over the pollution from toxic chemicals seeping from large coal ash ponds into the Middle Fork River in Vermilion County. But engineering experts warn there may be a greater risk posed by the collapse of the riverbank holding back more than 600 million of gallons of toxic coal ash.

Help us investigate the growing number of pesticide drift complaints

The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that the number of alleged pesticide misuse complaints in Illinois this year is already more than the previous three years combined. States across the Midwest have reported a similar spike. Experts say this sharp increase is due in large part to new formulations of the weed killer dicamba. Many farmers and homeowners are reporting damage to their non-dicamba-resistant plants, raising questions about how easily the product can drift off target, even when applied according to the directions on the label. The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting has been following the story, and we want to hear from you (regardless of whether you filed a formal complaint).

Ethanol spills on the rise in the Midwest

An ethanol spill occurs every two days on average in the Midwest, the worst of which result in contamination of water supplies, major fish kills, loss of life and millions of dollars of damage. The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that as production and transportation of ethanol has risen dramatically in the region over the past three decades, so have ethanol spills.