Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | January 17, 2010

Attorney Sanders says two of Kentucky Utilities’ coal ash ponds located near Ohio River are classified by EPA as a “High Hazard” to human health and the environment.

Over the past several months, EPA has undertaken a concerted effort to identify and to assess the structural integrity of impoundments, dams, or other management units, within the electric power generating industry, holding wet-handled coal combustion residuals or CCRs.  These ponds hold billions of pounds of waste material primarily fly ash and bottom ash.

In response to an EPA information request on units handling wet or slurried CCRs, electric utilities have so far identified a total of 431 units managing slurried CCRs at 162 facilities.

EPA sent out a 2nd mailing to an additional 48 facilities that were identified as also having units that manage wet or slurried CCRs. Responsive information from this 2nd mailing is not available at this time. 

Forty-nine (49) of these units at 30 different locations have been assigned a high hazard potential rating, using the criteria developed by the National Dam Safety Program for the National Inventory of Dams. Hazard potential ratings are generally assigned by the State Dam Safety officials. 

Kentucky’s EPPC staff members are underfunded and unsupported by the governor’s office on issue. It is simply a fact like it or not.  Don’t look for a solution from Frankfort because none is coming.

According to the EPA, there are 44 coal ash ponds in Kentucky – the second highest number in the nation after Indiana.  EPA has classified seven coal ash ponds in the state, as “high hazard”, including sites in Louisa, Harrodsburg, Ghent and Louisville. Out of the 100 coal-burning plants that produce the largest amount of coal ash in the nation, Kentucky houses 10.

I am concerned about the ponds in Ghent, Kentucky.  This little city has a lot of heavy industrial plants because of cheap electric power, water, and transportation links.  We need and support industry in Kentucky.  That is not the issue.  The issue is whether KU is going to take steps to address two high hazard coal waste ponds located near a drinking water supply for many thousands of Americans. 

KU’s Ash Basin 1 and Ash Basin 2 are high hazard ponds.  These ponds are next to US 42 and the Ohio River.  Yes, the same Ohio River that is the drinking water supply for every city situated on the banks of this mighty river.  KU’s Ghent plant is located about half  way between Cincinnati and Louisville.  Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, is downstream from the plant.

It is time for KU and the other utilities with high hazard ponds to take the engineering steps needed to permanently abate this potential danger to human health and the environment before a potential disaster occurs.  Everyone understands that fixing the problem takes money.  However, abating the high hazard problems for these two ponds will cost pennies on the dollar compared to cleaning up a catastrophic failure of these coal ash ponds.

We ignore this issue at our peril.  If you don’t believe it, just ask the TVA folks working on cleaning up the mess at the Kingston, Tennessee plant.  It is going to take more than a BILLION $$ dollars to fix the environmental mess TVA created by ignoring the structural integrity of its coal waste ponds.   

It is time for KU to step up to the plate and take responsible engineering measures to fix this potential problem and create a long term storage solution for coal ash wastes.

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