Environment

Sometimes the news is that nothing new has happened… as is the case with the Louisville Metro Police Impound Lot in Butchertown.

The lot is both overcrowded and an environmental hazard for Beargrass Creek, which flows nearby. Two years ago the city announced it was exploring alternative locations for the impound lot, but it has not yet found one.

On Wednesday, the impound lot held its first car auction of the year. Willing buyers stood out in freezing weather beside heaps of wrecked and burnt-out vehicles, kicking the tires for spare parts and looking for a good deal.

The auctions help find new homes for abandoned and impounded cars and trucks, but from the look of the tow lot, it’s still overflowing with vehicles.

“It’s just cars that people don’t pick up that are from the impound lot and towed off the side of the road,” said Brian Jent, a car buyer. “You see how it’s all congested like when you ride down the road in Louisville, [those] wrecks sit there forever.”

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Burned out cars at Louisville’ impound lot on January 22, 2019.

The impound lot sits just south of U.S. Route 71 between Frankfort Avenue and Beargrass Creek. The lot has a capacity of about 1,800 vehicles, but regularly holds more than 2,000. Part of the site sits in the 100-year-flood plain and slopes downhill toward the creek, which can cause pollution from the lot to runoff into the waterway.

A spokesman with Louisville Metro Police Department declined to answer questions about the future of the lot, and instead referred to news stories written in 2018.

“Our statement is, at this time we don’t have anything new to report,” said Sgt. Lamont Washington, LMPD spokesman.

Councilman Bill Hollander, whose district includes the lot, said he’s not certain that the search for a new site has ended, but it so far has been “unsuccessful.”

“The city has been unable to locate another acceptable site,” Hollander said.

A new lot needs to be at least 15 relatively flat acres, centrally located and able to be developed without impacting nearby homes or natural areas.

David Wicks, the board chair of River City Paddle Sports, hosts regular trips down Beargrass Creek by canoe and kayak. He said the impound lot is the largest single source of pollution on the creek. Busted vehicles can leak oil and antifreeze into its waters, he said.

“If it was a commercial entity it would have been closed down many years ago,” Wicks said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Potential buyers at the first auction of the year at Louisville’s car impound lot on January 22, 2019.

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