LG&E Cane Run Ash Pond Unlike TVA Pond That Failed

by kespeland on February 27, 2009

In a story I reported recently about how coal ash is handled in Kentucky, I mentioned both the December 2008 coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority plant in Tennessee and LG&E’s Cane Run plant coal ash pond here in Louisville. While they are both coal ash ponds, there are some pretty important differences between the two, which I thought I’d share.

First, the TVA plant was storing fly ash in the pond, in a kind of slurry, behind a tall dam wall.   At Cane Run, the pond contains bottom ash.  Fly ash is the powdery leftovers from burning coal; bottom ash is the sandy, heavier bits. Whereas fly ash slurry is a kind of goopy mixture, bottom ash settles in a pond. Experts believe it’s generally better to store fly ash in dry landfills as opposed to ponds. In Europe, the push is not to store any of it at all, but to reuse ash in cement and pavement.  Also, the Cane Run pond’s dam walls are quite low, and the pond doesn’t hold nearly as much as the TVA plant.

So, the set-up at TVA spelled disaster.  To get a sense of the size and impact of that spill, see these before and after aerial pictures.

However, it’s true the Cane Run pond is in a residential neighborhood, near a rail line, and on the Ohio River. For that reason, the state ranks it as a “high hazard” pond, requiring regular inspections of the dam walls and surrounding turf.All this means that a disaster like what happened at the TVA plant is highly unlikely at Cane Run, for anyone left wondering. But there are many coal-fired power plants in Kentucky, and that means there’s plenty of coal combustion waste – fly ash, bottom ash – being stored and land-filled at increasing rates.

There are also some innovative projects to try to reuse the ash.  For example, at Western Kentucky Energy’s Coleman station in Hawesville, University of Kentucky researchers helped develop a process for recovering fly ash from ponds to extract the carbon and create a new fuel.

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{ 2 comments }

Ernest Norsworthy February 27, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Maybe its endemic to the coal-fired power industry but the one I have followed is the TVA. I have studied the TVA for several years and found them wanting in many areas.

TVA, until recently, scoffed at the idea of following rules other utilities had to abide by. But a federal judge ruled in a North Carolina pollution case that even though the TVA is a federal government agency it was not immune from liability.

Management of the TVA over the years (let’s go back 75 years, when it started) has been deplorable to the point of my calling for the resignations of the TVA CEO and its board members on several occasions.

The Kingston ash-dam break was from negligence of management. However, through the years, TVA never has been punished for its mismanagements. According to the TVA, it is always something or someone else who is to blame.

For more of my articles on the TVA, see http://norsworthyopinion.com

Ernest Norsworthy
emnorsworthy@earthlink.net

KLittle June 15, 2009 at 11:13 pm

I live across the street from the Cane Run plant, I feel because it is “high hazard” it should be moved to prevent what happened in Tennessee from happening to my neighborhood. I can’t understand how they can build things like this close to a residential area and no one stops them.

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