Coal Ash Problems Continue at Cane Run

Louisville Gas and Electric has had another equipment malfunction at its Cane Run plant, which released clouds of coal ash yesterday evening.

The sludge processing plant is the machine that takes the coal ash and mixes it with other materials to turn it into a concrete-like substance, so it can be put into the landfill. A video shot by Greg Walker, who lives across the street, shows clouds of ash rising above the plant—and over the dust screen the company installed in April.

This is the same piece of equipment that malfunctioned repeatedly a year ago. LG&E paid nearly $20,000 to the Air Pollution Control District earlier this year for violations that included the machine’s previous malfunction.

LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan says the company has taken several steps to reduce airborne ash, but the nature of a power plant means sometimes things will go wrong.

“We’re doing everything we can to minimize the impact on our neighbors,” she said. “We know that this is a sense of frustration out there. But it’s mechanical equipment, it’s a power plant and things are going to continue to break. And like I said, we’re doing everything we can to maintain that equipment so we don’t have any issues.”

Whelan says the ash was actively being released for seven minutes, before the plant was shut down. She says it’s still offline, and she doesn’t know when it will be fixed.

The plant’s neighbors say the coal ash in the air is making life intolerable.

“It’s like living in a battlefield, it’s what I think Hell must be like,” Cane Run neighbor Kathy Little wrote in an email. “There is no enjoyment of life, we can’t go outside. So we stay in the house with our windows and doors shut as our air conditioning units pull the ash into our houses. My car stays a filthy mess but the worst thing is my kid and everyone else’s kids are breathing this stuff and it hasn’t gotten any better.  Need some HELP.”

The company has plans to retire the coal-fired power plant and replace it with natural gas by 2016.

Here’s the video of the plant from last night, uploaded to YouTube by Joe Sonka of LEO Weekly.

To view other coal ash videos uploaded by the plant’s neighbors, click here.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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