Kentucky Utilities says a new scrubber at its E.W. Brown Power Plant in Mercer County will capture 98 percent of the sulfur dioxide produced by burning coal at the plant.
The company took credit for installing the equipment as part of its effort to create a cleaner environment, failing to mention that it agreed to do the work to settle violations of the federal Clean Air Act.
"A cleaner environment for us all is something we do not take lightly as a company," Ralph Bowling, a vice president of KU parent company E.ON U.S., said in a news release. "The installation of the new system at E.W. Brown shows our commitment to that pledge and to the surrounding community."
Sulfur dioxide is a main contributor to acid rain and aggravates heart and lung disease.
The plant, near Dix Dam on Herrington Lake, has been blamed for some of the pollution that drifts into Lexington.
In February 2009, the company agreed to pay a $1.4 million fine, spend $3 million on environmental projects and install $135 million worth of pollution controls at the plant to settle a suit brought by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA had sued in 2007, saying the company had modified the largest of three units at the plant in 1997 so that it burned more coal and produced more pollution. The modifications were made without installing the required pollution-control equipment, the EPA said.
Under the agreement that settled the suit, KU didn't admit to doing anything wrong, but it agreed to pay the fine and install the equipment.
Additional equipment to reduce nitrogen oxides is required to be in place by 2012. Nitrogen oxides are blamed for a number of health problems, and they contribute to ground-level ozone, acid rain and global warming, the EPA says.
KU also has agreed to surrender the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides credits that it would have qualified for after installing the equipment. At the time of the settlement, the EPA said that not allowing the credits to be sold means that the pollution they represented will permanently be removed from the environment.
The new scrubber is working on one of the units at Brown and eventually will be connected to all three.
It uses water and crushed limestone to remove the sulfur dioxide and emits a plume of steam from the tall stack.
The process produces a byproduct called gypsum. The gypsum produced at the company's Ghent plant in Carroll County is sometimes used to make wallboard for home construction. The gypsum at Brown is going into a pond, but spokesman Cliff Feltham said the company eventually hopes that the gypsum also gets recycled into wallboard.