LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A coal ash storage site in central Kentucky near Herrington Lake is at risk for a potential disaster, according to a Sierra Club report.
State environmental officials responded Thursday that ground water near the E.W. Brown Generating Station is being evaluated and the ash site is in the process of being cleaned up.
The LG&E-owned power plant near Harrodsburg stores about 26 million tons of coal ash in a 126-acre pond. Ash is no longer dumped at the site.
The Sierra Club included the Kentucky site in a report on hazardous coal ash sites around the country. State officials said Thursday that tests have shown elevated levels of arsenic coming from nearby springs.
"Protecting the health of the local community is critical, and the state must manage these contaminants," Deborah Payne, health coordinator for the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, said in a news release. "When metals leach out of coal ash, they can move through groundwater into drinking water supplies, endangering public health."
Dick Brown, a spokesman for Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet, said the site is properly permitted and regulated by the state's Division of Water and Division of Waste Management. He said the agency is aware of elevated levels of arsenic coming from small springs near the site, and the power plant is taking steps to address the situation.
Chris Whelan, a spokeswoman for LG&E, said the utility has submitted a cleanup plan that is pending state approval. Part of the plan includes capping the pond and installing a catch basin and pump system to collect polluted water leaching from the ash pond.
Environmentalists said they are concerned because the decades-old pond is unlined, meaning contaminants can make their way into the ground. They noted a recent coal ash spill on the Dan River in North Carolina as an example of what can go wrong. In February, a pipe collapsed under a coal ash pond, sending miles of gray sludge into the Dan River. Duke Energy has spent more than $15 million to plug the pipe that collapsed at its coal-fired power plant in Eden.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set deadline of December to issue new regulations on coal ash storage.