Video: Toxic Coal Ash Town in Indiana

A heap of ash –- known in the Indiana Town of Pines as Yard 520 — steadily grew into a mountain of coal wastes a half-mile long and four stories tall, higher than any building in town.

By Aaron Jaffe
Circle of Blue

VIDEO: The Faces of Pines
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Video by Aaron Jaffe for Circle of Blue.
Residents of the Town of Pines reflect on nearly 10 years of fighting coal ash contamination.

There are more than 500 power plants across the United States that burn coal, producing more than 100 million tons of coal ash annually — enough to fill a million railroad cars.

A working-class village of about 800 living in the divide between the Indiana Dunes and the steel belt that spans from Indiana to Chicago, the Town of Pines is home to the nation’s shortest highway and more than 100 million tons of coal ash. Deposited in an unlined landfill, the coal ash mixed with the groundwater, sending a toxic plume of heavy metals into residents’ wells. Today, Yard 520 is slated for cleanup as an Alternative Superfund Site — an EPA program that takes care of abandoned toxic waste sites.

Aaron Jaffe is a video producer and reporter for Circle of Blue. Reach him at

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