Wisconsin utility: Lake debris contains coal ash

November 2, 2011 - 4:45 PM

MILWAUKEE (AP) — A spokesman for a Wisconsin utility confirms debris spilled into Lake Michigan during a landslide this week contained an unknown amount of coal ash.

Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal. It contains low concentrations of arsenic, selenium, lead and mercury but isn't classified as hazardous.

We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said Wednesday it's too early to know how much coal ash ended up in the lake. He says the majority stayed on land and debris in the water has been largely contained.

A scientist with a freshwater institute in Milwaukee says any environmental damage to Lake Michigan probably will be limited to the immediate area of the spill.

The spill happened Monday when a section of cliff gave way at the utility's coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee.