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.


Jasper Davis stoops to tilt a plastic bottle under a drip of water that's trickling from a crack in the mountainside.

"Tastes better than what the city water does," he says. "Way better."

The spring is innocuous, a mere dribble emerging from a cliff face that was cut out to make room for a four-lane highway. But there's evidence of frequent visitors. A small footbridge has been placed over the muddy ground, and some enterprising soul shoved a rubber tube into the mountain to make filling jugs easier.

Ryan Van Velzer

When the state of Kentucky pays to conserve natural areas, it tries to protect that land forever.

Now for first time in nearly 30 years, the power of those protections could be tested in the fight over the future of Bernheim Forest’s Cedar Grove wildlife corridor, according to state environmental advocates.


Erica Peterson

It’s in food packaging, non-stick pans, paint, cleaning products and firefighting foams.

It’s likely in your blood. It’s probably in my blood. And if it wasn’t there before, it could be there now. That is, if you’re drinking Louisville tap water.

The Environmental Working Group, an organization that tracks environmental pollutants in consumer products, found 10 PFAS compounds in a sample of Louisville drinking water taken from a home in July, according to data from the group.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Hundreds of miles of the Ohio River are still contaminated with unsafe levels of toxic blue-green algae, though seasonal changes have helped to improve conditions over the last week or so.

Drought conditions across the Ohio Valley in September helped fuel the growth of harmful algal blooms. The algae led organizers to cancel the Great Ohio River Swim in Cincinnati and the swimming portion of Louisville’s Iron Man competition earlier this month.

Ryan Van Velzer

Coal lobbyists have enlisted the help of Kentucky state utility regulators in asking federal officials to weigh in on a Trump administration plan to bail out coal-fired power plants.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has joined five other states in writing letters to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as part of a campaign orchestrated by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The letters were first reported by Bloomberg.

City of Bowling Green

The city of Bowling Green will use its new recycling trailer for the first time on Oct. 18 at the downtown Harvest Festival.  

Getting the trailer was easier than finding companies that would take the material for recycling.

Bowling Green partnered with Western Kentucky University on a grant to cover the cost of four recycling trailers, with three for the university and one designated for the city to use at special events.

Bowling Green Environmental Manager Matt Powell said the city reviewed its recycling program and determined that it could increase the collection of recyclables with the flexiblity of a trailer that could be moved around to community events.  

New Kentucky Memorial Honors Miners Who Died From Black Lung

Oct 12, 2019
Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Coal miners and family members of miners who have died from black lung disease gathered Sunday in Whitesburg, Kentucky, to dedicate a new memorial to miners who perished from the workplace disease.

While Appalachian coal country has several memorials to mining disasters, this is believed to be the first memorial to remember the thousands of men and women who died from black lung.

The engraved black stone memorial stands at Riverside Park in Whitesburg and will list the names of some 200 Letcher County coal miners who died of the disease.

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.


LG&E Suit To Condemn Bernheim Land Moves Forward

Oct 1, 2019
Ryan Van Velzer

The Bullitt County Circuit Court has served Bernheim Forest in a condemnation suit that would allow Louisville Gas & Electric to seize Bernheim land to build a natural gas pipeline through the Cedar Grove wildlife corridor.

Bernheim Research Forest and Arboretum has 20 days as of Monday to make a case showing why Louisville Gas & Electric does not have the right to seize the land, according to a court filing. The lawsuit moves forward at the same time as a complaint before utility regulators to stop progress on the pipeline.

Report: Water Is Unaffordable For Nearly Half Of Residents In Martin County

Sep 30, 2019
Benny Becker

A new report finds nearly half the residents of Martin County, Kentucky, cannot afford water service. Local activists with the Martin County Concerned Citizens are ringing alarm bells about water affordability as the beleaguered county faces another likely water rate increase in the coming months.

Since the ReSource first reported on its water crisis two years ago, Martin County has become the prime example of rural communities struggling to maintain aging water systems.


Drought Driving Toxic Algal Blooms Along Ohio River

Sep 30, 2019

Drought-like conditions across the Ohio Valley are producing toxic blue-green algal blooms in patches along the Ohio River stretching from Louisville to West Virginia.

Ohio and Kentucky have released recreational advisories warning people and pets to avoid swimming and wading in areas impacted by the harmful algal blooms, said Greg Youngstrom, environmental scientist at the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission.

The algal blooms are growing sporadically throughout a 300-mile-long stretch of the river, often appearing as green, paint-like scum on the water’s surface.


Becca Schimmel

A Western Kentucky University student is organizing a local event to coincide with the Global Climate Strikes

Jessica Williams is the main organizer and is designing her academic major around climate change. The WKU junior from Florence said the U.S. government needs to take climate change science seriously.

“We can’t wait another year, we can’t wait another month, we can’t wait another day. Something needs to happen now. And that’s why I am organizing the climate strike.” 


J. Tyler Franklin

Governor Matt Bevin threw shade at 16-year-old environmental activist Greta Thunberg and continued to cast doubt on the science behind man-made climate change during a meeting of the Southern States Energy Board on Tuesday.

Bevin’s comments came during a meeting of an interstate compact of officials from 16 southern states focused on energy and environment policies at Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel. According to a video posted by WHAS reporter Chris Williams, Bevin said Thunberg’s climate activism is based on a lack of perspective.


U.S. Forest Service

Kentucky coal helped fuel the state’s prosperity for generations, but production is down, mines are going bankrupt or sitting idle and the state is left with a legacy of environmental degradation.

It’s apparent in the moonscapes of the state’s mountaintop removal coal mines, the acid mine drainage of its waterways, the coal ash leftover from burning coal for electricity and the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.