Environmental groups say power plant ash is polluting lake

July 13, 2017 GMT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit alleging a Kentucky power plant is illegally releasing pollutants from coal waste storage sites into a recreational lake.

The Kentucky Waterways Alliance and Sierra Club say in the federal suit that the E.W. Brown plant near Harrodsburg is not authorized to discharge pollutants from coal ash storage sites into Herrington Lake.

The plant, built in the 1950s, is run by Kentucky Utilities. The environmental groups said the discharges at two ash sites are violating the federal Clean Water Act. One of the sites dates back to the 1950s and was capped off in 2008.


The utility is rejecting the lawsuit, and a spokeswoman said Thursday that Kentucky Utilities is in full compliance with environmental laws.

“We’re prepared to defend our case in court,” said KU spokeswoman Chris Whelan. Whelan said the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet did a survey at the lake and found no evidence of contamination to the drinking water supply.

The lake in central Kentucky is a popular fishing and boating destination, and it is a source of drinking water for nearby towns.

The environmental groups said in the suit filed Wednesday that the utility should be ordered to stop the flow of pollutants into the lake. They argue that the utility is releasing pollutants that exceed the authorization in its state permit.

There are “significant concentrations” of arsenic, selenium and lead in springs connected to the ash ponds through the ground water, the lawsuit said.

Ward Wilson, executive director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, said in a prepared release Thursday that his group has tried for years to get the discharges from the coal ash sites to stop.

“Now we feel legal action is necessary to promptly correct this threat to wildlife and water quality,” Wilson said.

The suit alleged that efforts to reduce the amount of pollutants escaping the coal ash storage sites have been inadequate. The ash is a byproduct of burning coal at power plants, and it is often stored onsite in ponds or landfills.

The environmental groups, along with the environmental law group Earthjustice, are also asking for the utility to be fined $37,500 per day for each violation of the federal Clean Water Act.