4:19pm

Wed May 23, 2012
Environmental Watchdog

EPA Raises Concerns About Plan for Coal Ash Landfill

The Environmental Protection Agency has concerns about the environmental impact of a 218-acre coal ash landfill in Trimble County proposed by Louisville Gas and Electric. LG&E is asking for permission to construct the landfill near its Trimble County power plant. If it’s permitted, the site will store coal ash—the waste that’s leftover after coal is burned. The company currently stores the Trimble County plant’s ash in an impoundment pond, but the pond is getting full and the company needs to find somewhere else to store the ash.

The EPA’s Region 4 office sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday, outlining its opposition to the project. In the letter, the EPA raises issues with the landfill’s affect on more than 54,000 feet of ecologically-sensitive streams and an acre of wetlands.

EPA Region 4 Administrator Gwen Keyes-Fleming also suggests LG&E may have overestimated the coal ash it will need to store in the landfill. In the letter, Keyes-Fleming says LG&E officials have indicated they plan to re-use some of the coal ash, but didn’t take that into account in the calculations of the landfill’s volume. She suggests a smaller landfill would have less effect on the environment.

“The larger storage capacity requirement was then used to exclude numerous otherwise potentially practicable alternatives. Some of these other alternatives would require less deposition of dredged or fill material into jurisdictional waters and could avoid impacting any of the high quality headwater stream resources proposed to be impacted by the landfill, which are in fact among the highest quality resources in this region of the Commonwealth,” the letter said.

Kimberly Simpson is a project manager with the Army Corps. She says there are multiple opportunities for LG&E to take the concerns of the EPA and the public into consideration.

“We do actually suggest people do make modifications to try to avoid impacts to waters of the United States,” Simpson said. “And there may be other modifications that LG&E decides to do in order to address concerns the public has brought forth.”

Simpson notes that LG&E has already modified portions of the proposal to address previously-raised concerns.

LG&E spokesman Brian Phillips says the company is conducting additional studies and collecting data to try to address the public and EPA’s concerns.

“We continue to believe the area we selected for the Trimble County landfill is the most appropriate location and we’re taking the necessary steps now to address their questions and concerns,” he said. “We’re working with the appropriate agencies on each concern.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has the power to grant permits under the Clean Water Act, so technically the corps can approve LG&E’s permit despite the EPA objections. But the EPA has veto power, which it seems increasingly willing to flex.

This is the newest hurdle in LG&E’s application for the Trimble County landfill. Earlier this year,state regulators found a cave on the site and still haven’t decided whether the landfill would violate the state’s stringent cave law.