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Brendan Nytes (left), of Microtrace, and Cassidy Kuchenbecker, of Environmental Initiatives of North America, work on logging test samples taken from Charlie Michna’s home.

Two third-party firms have tested four homes near the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant to see if they positive for coal dust and fly ash.

Almost 30 families have brought their concerns to We Energies about the impact of living next to the Oak Creek Power Plant, which they say has had an impact on their health, drinking water, and property values over the years, said the group’s attorney Maxwell Livingston.

Coal, coal dust and fly ash have been known to contribute to a number of diseases including: Heart disease, certain types of cancers, respiratory diseases, and strokes, according to Alan H. Lockwood, who wrote a report titled Coals Assault On Human Health.

We Energies spokesperson Brian Manthey said the utility is investigating the neighbors’ concerns.

“We hope to have the testing done soon, but that will depend on the experts’ availability,” he said..

This is the top of Charlie Michna’s refrigerator.

The testing protocol was agreed upon by both parties, which includes taking dust samples from 10 homes within a five-mile radius of the plant. Testing firms — Elgin-based Micro Trace and West Allis-based Environmental Initiatives of North America — have tested four of 10 homes: including homes belonging to Charlie Michna, Frank Michna, Tim Hupp, and Maureen Wolff.

Cassidy Kuchenbecker, a senior consultant and microbiologist for Environmental Initiatives, said two samples from eight locations inside each home were taken. Of those samples, three from each home will be sent to Microtrace for further testing.

“Right now we’re testing for the presence of dark particles, but those highly suspect samples will be further analyzed,” Kuchenbecker said.

Charlie said he has mixed feelings about the possible outcome of whether or not coal dust or fly ash is inside his home.

“I’ve lived here 27 years in this house and in this area for my whole life,” he said. “I’d like to stay if I can, but if it costs me my and my family’s health, I’m leaving.”


Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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