coal ash

Coal Ash Is Still Polluting Kentucky’s Green River

Dec 4, 2019
Ryan Van Velzer

Often, pollution is invisible. It’s in the exhaust particles we breathe walking past traffic, or the traces of mercury in Kentucky fish. But at the Green Station Landfill in Webster County, it’s obvious.

At times, the coal ash leachate shimmers black like an oil slick. At other times, it oozes chemical green. Sometimes, it stains the soil the color of rusted molasses. And in videos, the coal ash liquids trickle off the landfill like teal glacial waters leaving behind a pale salty residue. 

This mixture, containing elevated levels of carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals, is seeping from the Green Station Landfill into the Green River toward its confluence with the Ohio.

 


EPA Proposes Changes To Federal Coal Ash, Wastewater Rules

Nov 5, 2019
Erica Peterson

Federal environmental regulators have released proposed changes to two rules related to the disposal of coal ash and wastewater from coal-fired power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced its third round of changes to its 2015 rule regulating coal ash. Coal ash is one of the largest waste streams in the country and often contains toxic compounds like arsenic, lead, and radium. Dozens of the waste sites dot the Ohio Valley, often along rivers.

 


Brian Latimer/WPLN

The Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing to move decades of coal ash sitting near the Cumberland River in Gallatin, after a settlement with environmental groups.

And before the relocation process begins, TVA says it's hoping for more public involvement.

The utility is forming a new community action group that it says will be made up of Sumner County residents who can bring concerns to TVA. Spokesman Scott Brooks says TVA’s approach will be hands-off.

 


Ryan Van Velzer

Ashes from the coal burned to fuel America’s appetite for energy are buried in unlined pits and landfills scattered across the country.

Now, first the first time, the American public is learning the impacts these coal ash dumps are having on the environment. The results point to widespread contamination.


Ryan Van Velzer

Ashes from the coal burned to fuel America’s appetite for energy are buried in unlined pits and landfills scattered across the country.

Now, first the first time, the American public is learning the impacts these coal ash dumps are having on the environment. The results point to widespread contamination.

And Kentucky’s Ghent Generating Station — located along the Ohio River an hour north of Louisville — ranks among the 10 worst contaminated coal ash sites in the country, according to a report released Monday from the Environmental Integrity Project, an environmental advocacy group.

Division of Waste Management

The coal used to power our homes leaves behind mountains of ash. At one power plant in Western Kentucky, that coal ash is stored in a pair of unlined landfills that may have been polluting local groundwater for as long as 18 years.

Evidence from satellite images, state inspections and the utility’s own groundwater monitoring reports reveal mountains of ash slowly leaching pollution into the nearby environment at the D.B. Wilson Power Plant, about 40 minutes south of Owensboro.

Erica Peterson

Environmental groups are challenging a regulation that gives Kentucky power plants until 2020 to clean up pollution leaching out of unlined coal ash ponds. The groups say the new Trump administration rules finalized in July don’t adequately protect the public from environmental harm.

Attorneys with Earthjustice filed the petition for review in the D.C. Court of Appeals on Monday.

“The communities downstream from these sites are the ones bearing the costs,” said Earthjustice attorney Thom Cmar. “Whether it’s the steady ongoing contamination of their water resources… or it’s the longer term and larger risk of a major catastrophe happening.”

New Coal Ash Rules Extend Deadlines For Leaking Ponds

Aug 1, 2018
Kentucky Division of Waste Management

Kentucky power plants will have more time to clean up pollution leaking out of coal ash landfills and ponds under new federal rules.

Last month, A WFPL News and Ohio Valley ReSource analysis found contaminated groundwater at 14 Kentucky power plants. That’s every power plant covered under the federal rules.

The pollution comes from the piles of ash leftover from burning coal for energy. In Kentucky, the ash is stored in landfills and ponds that are mostly unlined — meaning there isn’t any sort of barrier between the coal ash and the soil.

Brittany Patterson

A pilot-scale facility that extracts valuable rare earth elements from coal waste byproducts officially opened its doors this week at West Virginia University.

Advocates of the project are hopeful that environmental waste left by Appalachia’s coal mining legacy could one day fuel an economic boom in the region while also providing some national security.

"This could go a long way forward in creating new economic opportunity for West Virginia and this region and treat acid mine drainage, and turn it into a financial boon instead of a financial burden," Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute told the crowd.


Lisa Graves-Marcucci, Environmental Integrity Project

Curt and Debbie Havens’ ranch style home is the gathering place for their family. Their two boys grew up playing in the streets in this quiet neighborhood in West Virginia’s northern panhandle. Now, their grandchildren do the same.

“They played ball, all kinds of games,” Debbie recalled during a recent interview. Family photos and knick-knacks line the walls. One heart-shaped sign reads “May love be the heart of this home.”

“Everybody wants to come to grammy’s and pappy’s,” she added.


Erica Peterson

For decades, Kentucky’s own coal stoked the fires that generated most of its electricity. And while some of those power plants have shut down or switched to natural gas, their legacy remains today in the leftover coal ash that’s stored all over the commonwealth.

Now, new data show the coal ash buried in landfills and submerged in ponds at many of these sites has contaminated local groundwater.


Coal Ash Uncovered: New Data Reveal Widespread Contamination At Ohio Valley Sites

Jun 18, 2018
Google Earth Engine

For generations, coal power has fueled American prosperity. But for each shovelful thrown into the furnaces, a pile of ash was left in its place.

Today, as coal’s dominance in the power sector wanes, those piles of ash have grown into mountains as coal ash became one of the largest waste streams in the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.


How We Made Sense Of Confusing Coal Ash Data

Jun 18, 2018
Alexandra Kanik

The Environmental Protection Agency describes the 2015 coal ash rules as “self-implementing,” meaning utilities had to comply with the rules but the federal government would not oversee or enforce them. Instead, the EPA required utilities to publish the results of their groundwater testing on their websites.

The rules were written that way so that citizens could file lawsuits against utilities for contaminating groundwater or not following the regulations.

Paringa Resources website

A new coal mine in McLean County is another step closer to reality after approval was given for two parts of the project on Sept. 25.

A member of the McLean County Board of Adjustment, Nancy Wetzel, said the board approved a conditional use permit for coal washing operations and the refuse pile for the Poplar Grove Mine.

The Australian company Paringa Resources and its Evansville, Indiana affiliate Hartshorne Mining Group have begun construction of the mine. The project is on 270 acres in the rural community of Semiway between Calhoun and Sacramento.

Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection

Pointing to years of documented pollution from a Central Kentucky coal-fired power plant, environmental groups are suing Kentucky Utilities. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court in Lexington.

The issue is ongoing coal ash pollution at the E.W. Brown plant, which is near Danville. The power plant also sits directly next to Herrington Lake, which is a popular recreation spot. But for the past six years, regulators have documented contaminated water flowing into the lake. Fish tissue sampling done last year revealed the fish in Herrington Lake have been poisoned with selenium, which is one of the elements present in coal ash.

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