Proposal to expand coal ash landfill upsets neighborhood residents

Louisville, KY - By Marisela Burgos - bio | email
Posted by Charles Gazaway - email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Many people who live in the Riverside Gardens neighborhood on Lees Lane in southwest Louisville are upset about LG&E's proposal to expand a landfill that stores coal ash. LG&E wants a permit to expand its current landfill at their Cane Run Road site by nearly 50 acres.

According to Brian Phillips, a LG&E spokesperson, the current site is near capacity and the addition would store coal ash safely. Phillips said about 10 percent of the coal used during the process to make electricity is made into ash.

"What we try to do once the ash is formed is to reuse as much as possible or save it and store it safely on site," said Phillips.

Phillips said LG&E is trying to plan ahead in order to safely store materials while meeting current EPA guidelines. The proposed expansion would be as close as one mile from homes.

"We don't need it and we don't want it," said Patty Bell, who lives in the neighborhood.

As officials with the Division of Waste Management decide whether to issue or deny LG&E its permit, the department is seeking input from the community. On May 25, state officials held a public hearing at Conway Middle School to get feedback from neighbors. Flyers were hung around the Riverside Gardens community alerting residents about the meeting. Dozens of people packed the cafeteria at Conway Middle to give their two cents about the matter.

"Any time there is something to this level, it seems to always involve southwest or western Louisville and they feel dumped on," said Metro Councilwoman Judith Green (D-District 1).

Some of those at the meeting said they were worried the toxins in that coal ash could cause cancer. They hoped to get answers from the state, but Ron Gruzesky, manager of the Solid Waste Branch, said they were not at the meeting to provide answers at this time.

"The plan here is to get your concerns to make sure we go through the rest of the permit process," Gruzesky told the crowd.

Cheryl French was one of those attended the meeting and was upset that state officials were not going to answer their questions.

"They're not going to answer questions," French said. "Makes no sense, but we came here anyway to support our neighborhood."

The fact that state officials weren't giving answers didn't stop David Smith from asking the one question he wanted a response to – would Gruzesky put the facility in his back yard? Smith said Gruzesky hesitated before answering, but then responded with "probably not."

"We oppose this. We want this stopped. We don't want it here. We're not going to give up," said Terri Humphrey.

Phillips said he understands people's fears because of what happened in east Tennessee in 2008 when a Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash storage site spilled. Phillips said the proposed landfill would safely store coal ash on their property.

"It's designed well. It will be constructed well and it will meet all current environmental regulations and have the ability to adapt to future regulations," Phillips said.

The EPA is looking at changing some of those regulations. According to Phillips, the EPA is seeking input whether to change the coal classification to special waste not hazardous and looking at how coal age storage facilities will be regulated. Phillips said the proposed landfill would adapt to meet future regulations.

Phillips said the ponds on their Cane Run site have been inspected by the EPA and were given either the highest or second highest quality rating over the last year. Phillips said the ponds are inspected regularly.

If the state issues LG&E a permit, construction would start mid-2011.

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