Wisconsin Electric Power Co., the company that owns We Energies, has purchased land south of the Oak Creek Power Plant for $1.25 million, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Over the years, the utility has purchased 28 properties in Caledonia near the Oak Creek power plant, 4801 E. Elm Rd, Oak Creek. The parcel was assessed at $344,700, according to Racine County records.
The six-acre parcel, previously owned by Phillip Michna, is expected to be used as a buffer zone around the plant, said Brian Manthey, spokesperson for We Energies.
“The purchase is for buffer property near the plant,” Manthey wrote in an email. “We Energies has historically purchased land around various facilities and has purchased buffer property in this area at various times since the 1950s.”
Michna is not part of the group that has raised concerns with We Energies over health issues, well contamination, declining property values and noise from the increased traffic from the coal trains. But a number of other members of the Michna family are part of the group hoping to mediate a possible settlement with We Energies, according to a source close to the family.
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. While We Energies maintains that it operates within the EPA’s guidelines, the amount of particulate matter emitted from the plant was at its highest level in 2014, according to data the utility provided to the DNR.
Lisa Michna, Phillip’s wife, declined to comment about the transaction.
In other real estate transactions involving properties We Energies purchased, the utility required sellers to sign a confidentiality agreement. When asked if Lisa and Phillip were also required to abide by a confidentiality agreement, Manthey said: “The same disclosure terms that have been included in all of our other property purchase agreements have been included in this agreement.”
Over the course of the last several months, a number of the Michnas who live near Phillip’s property learned that they have varying amounts of coal dust in their homes and some have contaminated wells. In March, Racine County Eye learned that 19 out of 26 homes tested positive for the presence of coal-like particles, but We Energies officials maintain that the We Energies Oak Creek Power Plant operation is not causing area neighbors to get sick.
Phillip’s home was not part of that testing, said a source close to the family.
Despite what We Energies said publicly about the test results, lawyers representing both sides are now scheduling times for mediation, said Bill Pringle, who used to live near the coal plant.