PFAS pollution could last millennia. Kentucky officials told the polluter, but not residents

Nov 16, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Western Kentucky city grapples with widespread pollution from Teflon recycler

Nov 8, 2021
Ryan Van Velzer

Back in May of 2020, a food producer was looking at the city of Henderson for a $100 million investment in a city-owned industrial site near the Ohio River. 

For a city in a rural part of western Kentucky, the business was an opportunity to bring tax revenue and an estimated 90 full-time jobs to the community. The company stressed the importance of one thing: clean groundwater. 

But late last year, the company quietly walked away when it learned something officials had been reluctant to share with residents. 

High levels of forever chemicals have seeped into the shallow aquifer beneath the city and are creeping toward the Ohio River.



Rhonda J. Miller

About 700 Kentuckians a year take their own lives.

Now, a group in western Kentucky called Infinite Hope has been formed to support those left behind. 

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller talked with two people from Henderson who lost beloved young men to suicide, as Infinite Hope prepares for a remembrance ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. in Central Park in Henderson

One of those taking part in the event is Frank Poole, who lived near his grandson Talon Hogan for the entire 20 years of the young man’s life. He took care of Talon and his brother when their mother was busy remodeling their church and Poole was unemployed during the Great Recession.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

High levels of PFAS chemicals have contaminated a plastics recycling company in Henderson, Kentucky, spreading through the air and water and likely contaminating a creek that flows into the Ohio River, state officials say. 

The company, Shamrock Technologies Inc., notified state regulators about the problem after hiring a consultant to screen for the pollution three years ago. 

State records obtained by WFPL News through a records request show the extent of the pollution at the site, where PFAS levels rival those found at EPA Superfund sites on military installations across the country, but get far less attention.  



City of Henderson

The City of Henderson is providing free transportation to a new Community Vaccination Center that opens Thursday. 

The new vaccination center in Henderson is a partnership between FEMA and the state of Kentucky that’s bringing COVID-19 vaccines to underserved areas. 

Spokesperson Donna Stinnett said Henderson Area Rapid Transit, or HART, will  provide transportation to the vaccination center at the Henderson County Cooperative Extension site on Kentucky 351, also known as Zion Road.

"The city of Henderson made the decision that it would be good to support the efforts of that clinic and their efforts to reach out to as many people as possible, particularly in underserved areas, to provide some free transportation to that site, via our Henderson Area Rapid Transit Service," said Stinnett.

Ryan Van Velzer

Henderson County is one of two Kentucky locations chosen to partner with the federal government in a pilot project to make COVID-19 vaccinations more accessible to underserved communities. The site will open on Thursday, April. 29.

The pilot project with FEMA will open a Community Vaccination Center in the Expo Center at the Henderson County Cooperative Extension Service on Kentucky 351, also known as Zion Road.

Extension Service spokesperson Amanda Hardy said federal, state and local agencies are collaborating to create the new vaccination site.

Henderson Community College

Henderson Community College is increasing support for students facing personal challenges that might have been intensified by the emotional and physical stress of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic.

The college has opened a new one-stop center offering support for issues that could prevent academic success. 

The HCC Care Center may be small in size, but it offers students connections to a big range of community services.

Career Services Coordinator Angie Watson said the HCC Care Center can help with a wide range of  issues.

“Substance disorders, domestic violence, housing issues, mental and physical issues that they may be facing," said Watson. "We’ve got some great mental health facilities that can assist them and offer crisis counseling.”

American Queen Steamboat Company

One promising sign that life may be returning to “more normal” will be at the  Henderson waterfront this spring. It’s the return of the riverboats.

The first riverboat to arrive in Henderson this spring will be the American Duchess on April 22.

It’s the first of at least 20 scheduled stops by riverboats this season after the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of 15 stops in Henderson last year.

The Gleaner reports that when the luxury paddlewheeler docks it will bring more than 100 visitors to shop, eat and enjoy Henderson.

Henderson County Schools

The isolation and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 is stressful for adults, but it can be even more upsetting for young people.

The Henderson County school system is offering counseling for students, and workshops for adults to help them get through the pandemic.  

In addition to school guidance counselors, Henderson County Schools have seven mental health counselors. Four of the seven are funded by a federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMSA.  

The funding is for Project AWARE, which is to increase knowledge about mental health-related issues in the community.  

Hickory and Oak

Some economic relief is coming to restaurants and bars struggling under COVID-19 restrictions in one western Kentucky city. 

Henderson Mayor Steve Austin is granting a 12-month waiver on alcoholic beverage license renewal fees for all businesses that sell alcohol.

Establishments that haven’t paid their fees this year can postpone payment until 2021 and those that have already paid fees this year will not pay in 2021. 

Governor Andy Beshear imposed a ban on indoor seating last month amid a surge in new cases of the coronavirus.  Restrictions are scheduled to be lifted Dec. 13, but Austin says restaurants and bars will be struggling beyond that date.

Colin Jackson

As COVID-19 cases surges, it's tempting to look back at other epidemics the country has faced, including HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and 90s.

Since COVID-19 is especially dangerous for those with pre-existing conditions, the care HIV and AIDS positive individuals receive is vital. One western Kentucky-based organization is continuing to provide as many services as possible during the pandemic.

In non-pandemic times, Matthew 25 AIDS Services, Inc. health educators LaDeirdre Mumford and Jenika Soni's job would involve going out into the community. Their normal duties range from holding testing events to attending activities like health fairs or even drag shows, and just about everything in between. 

Dr. Laura Morton

Visiting at nursing homes across Kentucky began July 15, after in-person visits were suspended for several months to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Residents had been keeping in touch with family and friends through social media and by peering through windows. 

Now, visits to skilled nursing facilities have restarted, with many state required health precautions in place, including social distancing and the wearing of masks. 

Restrictions were eased on other types of long-term care facilities, including assisted living and personal care homes, on June 29.

Redbanks Skilled Nursing Center

Residents of skilled nursing facilities in Kentucky can begin to have visitors on July 15.

Extensive safety precautions are required under COVID-19 guidelines, and one nursing home in Henderson said it has all of those in place.

All visits to Redbanks Skilled Nursing Center in Henderson will be by appointment only, Monday through Friday.

Each resident will be allowed two visitors at a time, for 30 minutes. All visitors will have their temperature taken and be screened for possible COVID-19 symptoms or contacts.

Redbanks Assistant Administrator Angie Head said social distancing will allow for three residents and their visitors at a time, in a designated area.

City of Henderson Reviewing Plans For Solar Project

Nov 2, 2019
Duke Energy

After retiring the city-owned coal-fired power plant earlier this year, Henderson, Kentucky, is reviewing more than two dozen proposals to energize the city with solar power.

Henderson’s coal-fired power plant belonged to a vintage of older, smaller plants that went online in the 1970s. Historically it provided some of the cheapest electricity in the state, but market forces and maintenance costs eventually made plant operation unprofitable.

“Keeping the coal plant open as a coal plant was not in the financial interest of our customers,” said Henderson Municipal Power and Light General Manager Chris Heimgartner.


Rhonda J. Miller

A manufacturer of recycled plastic products in Evansville, Indiana is experiencing a surge in business due, in part, to China halting the import of plastic trash last year. Green Tree Plastics is now expanding partnerships with major corporations.

The family-owned company is also meeting the growing demand from student groups to produce benches and picnic tables from what most Americans have been sending to landfills -  plastic bottle caps.

The playground at Holy Name Catholic School in Henderson, Kentucky has a couple of special benches. They’re made from recycled plastic caps and lids, from water bottles, milk jugs, yogurt cups, toothpaste, coffee cans, peanut butter, and lots of other containers.