Environment
11:12 am
Wed December 18, 2013

Cane Run Power Plant Neighbors Sue LG&E Over Coal Ash

Several  of the residents living near the Cane Run Power Plant in Southwest Louisville filed a lawsuit on Monday against Louisville Gas & Electric and parent company PPL over persistent coal ash issues in the neighborhood.

The neighbors--Kathy Little, Greg and Debra Walker, Richard Evans and Phillip and Faye Whitaker--are seeking class action status in the suit. They're asking for monetary damages to cover cleanup of the ash on their properties, as well as civil penalties against LG&E. They also want the coal ash landfill to be capped immediately to prohibit any other ash from leaving.

Here's how the suit sums up the damage coal ash has caused to the Walker family:

The coal dust, coal ash, and other coal combustion byproducts that emanate from the Cane Run Site have negatively impacted the Walkers’ quality of life and ability to live in their home. The coal dust, coal ash, and other coal combustion byproducts have often driven their family indoors and forced them to keep windows and doors closed – even in the summer. The Walkers’ yard and garden have been repeatedly covered with coal dust, coal ash, and other coal combustion byproducts that they reasonably fear to be toxic. They are hindered from grilling or even sitting in their yard, tending their garden, allowing their grandsons and granddaughter to play in their yard, or feeling comfortable inviting friends or family into their home.

Mr. and Mrs. Walker have suffered thousands of dollars in property damage. The coal dust, coal ash, and other coal combustion byproducts emanating from the Cane Run Site stick to surfaces and are difficult to remove, causing considerable damage over time. The surfaces of their house cannot be simply wiped clean with water, chemical solutions are needed. Because of the recurring frequency of the deposits, numerous aspects of their home have been damaged beyond repair and require replacement. Deposits from the Cane Run Site have similarly damaged their car, outdoor furniture, and other property.

The Walkers and other members of their household have suffered respiratory ailments, eye irritation, skin irritation, severe mental and physical ailments, and sensitivity to sulfur odors caused by Cane Run Site’s deposition of coal dust, coal ash, and other coal combustion byproducts on their property and home. On information and belief, these ailments, were directly caused by exposure to toxic chemicals contained in fly ash, bottom ash, and coal combustion byproducts that emanated from the Cane Run Site.

For the past few years, Cane Run residents have complained about coal ash, which is a byproduct from burning coal. At Cane Run, the coal ash is disposed of in both a pond and a landfill, but residents have documented it leaving the plant. LG&E has been cited numerous times by the Louisville Air Pollution Control District for related issues; most recently, the company agreed to pay $113,000 to settle several of those violations.

The story was broken by the Associated Press; here's what the company told the reporter:

LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan said the company does not comment on pending litigation. She said in an emailed statement that the company “takes its environmental responsibility seriously,” and it has spent more than $1.5 million in dust-mitigation efforts at Cane Run. They include adding cover soil and seeding the pile, using watering trucks and applying dust suppressant and installing dust-filtering systems.

There currently aren't any EPA rules regulating coal ash. The agency has proposed regulating it as a hazardous material, but the proposal was issued three years ago and hasn't been finalized. But in the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are arguing that LG&E has violated the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act by letting dust and coal ash from the plant leave the property and contaminate their homes.

LG&E is planning to stop burning coal at Cane Run in 2015 and converting the plant to natural gas.

Cane Run Suit