8:38am

Thu July 14, 2011
Environmental Watchdog

LG&E Report Confirms Coal Ash Concerns

Science has backed up claims by people living near the Cane Run Power Station in Louisville who say the plant’s coal ash is contaminating their homes.  This could lead Metro Government to take action against Louisville Gas & Electric. Next to LG&E’s Cane Run Power Station there’s a coal ash landfill. It holds the fly ash that’s leftover after coal is burned. The residents of Cane Run Road say the ash routinely blows off the landfill and travels onto their property, coating siding and windows. Now, this new report commissioned by the power company is the latest study to lend credence to those concerns.

The report—prepared by a third party—analyzes data from six samples taken off nearby homes. All showed significant amounts of coal ash—fly and the heavier bottom ash composed more than fifty percent of four of the samples.

Kathy Little’s home was one of those sampled. During a recent walk down Cane Run Road she pointed to the air above the landfill.

“Yeah. There it goes,” she said, pointing. “You see the black up there? If you notice, you’ll see some ash blowing. That’s what they’re trying to keep on their property, and it’s not happening.”

Sure enough, ash wisps were flying off. Little says the new report vindicates her and her neighbors’ concerns, but at this point she wouldn’t believe LG&E if they claimed the samples were negative.

“If they say ‘nothing,’ I don’t believe them,” she said. “I wouldn’t believe them because, well, you were there and you saw what was on the sides of the homes.”

The report cautions that the samples might not be representative of the whole area, but should be used to direct future dust sampling. LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan says the amount of coal ash found in these samples was significantly higher than any previous tests have shown.

“We are always concerned about our homeowners that are in our area so we want to ensure that we’re doing the best possible thing we can for them to ensure that we are being good neighbors,” Whelan said. “And for us, we think that means we need to continue to test and see exactly what is going on out there.”

LG&E will hold a meeting Monday evening with area residents to share the study results with them.

The tests don’t say whether the ash came from the landfill—which would be illegal—or from the plant’s smokestacks—which is allowed, to a degree. But at least one of the samples showed traces of a material called Pozotec, which is only used in the landfill.

Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District spokesman Matt Stull says he expects the matter to be discussed internally, but:

“What we’ve seen here also may lead us to ask LG&E or cause LG&E to take some remedial action here,” he said.

As far as the city is concerned, when dust or a smell limits a person’s rights to enjoy their property, it counts as a nuisance. Those living across from the power plant allege the ash has not only damaged their property but has caused serious health problems such as cancer, asthma and even birth defects.