Environmental groups file suit against LG&E over discharges from coal ash pond

cgross@herald-leader.comMay 28, 2014 

US NEWS COALASH-SPILL 9 CH

Gullies in the coal ash pond at the Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station show where coal ash flowed towards the Dan River beyond the far berm.(John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

JOHN D. SIMMONS — MCT

Two environmental groups filed suit Wednesday in federal court against Louisville Gas & Electric for allegedly inappropriately dumping coal ash in the Ohio River on an almost daily basis.

In its lawsuit, The Sierra Club and Earthjustice claim LG&E violated the Clean Water Act and a state water pollution discharge permit. The Sierra Club set up time-lapse cameras across the Ohio River from LG&E's Mill Creek Generating Station in Louisville, capturing photos of almost daily discharges from the plant's coal ash pond into the Ohio River.

Natasha Collins, an LG&E spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit, but said the company takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.

The permit states that LG&E may make "an occasional and direct discharge to the Ohio," but Dick Brown, a spokesman for the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, said Wednesday that LG&E's almost daily discharges do not violate terms of the permit.

The "permit and permit conditions were drafted under the assumption that the discharge would in fact be constant as opposed to occasional," Brown said in an email.

The Sierra Club sent LG&E a notice on March 17, warning that it would take legal action if the company didn't comply with its demands within 60 days. The notice also was sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection.

"The state and federal government need to regulate coal ash, in my opinion, but they're not doing so," said Thomas Pearce, a regional organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign who set up the cameras that recorded the discharges. "There has been almost no regulation."

The Sierra Club and Earthjustice also have accused LG&E's sister utility, Kentucky Utilities, of illegally leaking coal ash from its E.W. Brown plant into Herrington Lake and nearby groundwater in Mercer County. The groups said they found high arsenic levels in water near the plant.

"We don't think our rivers and streams should be dumping grounds for coal ash," Pearce said.

Lexy Gross: (859) 231-3335. Twitter: @lexygross.

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