Environment

The air in Louisville is cleaner than it used to be according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

On Monday, the EPA announced the Louisville area — which includes Jefferson and northern Bullitt counties — is meeting air quality standards for fine particle pollution. This pollution includes dust, soot and car exhaust, and is technically called “PM2.5.” These particles are many times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Air Pollution Control District spokesman Tom Nord said a lot of the pollution in Louisville used to come from coal-fired power plants.

“It’s the dust and the soot and the stuff that comes off things, in this case from burning fossil fuels,” Nord said. “We have two major power plants here in Louisville and for the longest time they were the biggest drivers of our PM2.5 issue.”

One of those plants was Cane Run Generating Station; it switched to natural gas in 2015. The other was Mill Creek, which still burns coal but has since installed new pollution control measures.

The American Lung Association says these particles get into your lungs and enter your bloodstream, increasing the risk of heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma. Other studies cited by the group have even found that long-term exposure may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In Louisville, levels of fine particulate matter have been dropping for more than a decade. But Nord said the standards also became more stringent in 2012.

“Our air is getting cleaner, and it’s because our entire community – residents, businesses, activists, educators, and fellow government agencies – worked together to reach this milestone,” said APCD Director Keith Talley. “The hard work of controlling air pollution will never end, but we gladly pause for this moment of celebration.”

But even as the city’s particle pollution is improving, Louisville is still having trouble meeting EPA standards for ozone, another harmful pollutant.

For more information about air pollution control standards in Louisville, APCD is holding a series of workshops open to the public.

The next meeting on August 27 is about the APCD regulatory process.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.