Coal Ash Scares, Sickens Southwest Louisville Neighborhood–Part One

A view of the coal ash landfill, from the top of LG&E's Cane Run Power StationYou can’t see the smokestacks of the Cane Run Power Station from Stephanie Hogan’s home, even though she lives a block away. And while the power plant isn’t visible, it’s still a looming presence in Hogan’s life.

“Oh, he breathes so bad, he sounds like Darth Vader.” Hogan shakes her head, and Cody wheezes. “You ain’t even been running.”

Audio MP3

The family bought their trailer near the Louisville Gas and Electric-operated power plant about 15 months ago, and since then, Cody has developed serious respiratory problems. Eventually, his mom took him to a specialist, who pinpointed the potential cause of Cody’s sickness.

“I think it was the second visit, she asked where we lived,” Hogan said. “And I told her, and she said ‘Oh, you live next to that power plant. You need to move.’”

But Hogan can’t move. She’s trapped by her trailer’s low resale value, as well as her son’s rising medical expenses. Cody has asthma. He’s had tubes installed in his ears twice and three times he’s come down with an unexplained fever. Hogan estimates she spent nearly $4,000 in doctor’s visits and medication last year.

She says the culprit is coal ash: the sometimes-fine, sometimes-chunky material that’s leftover after coal is burned. It coats her porch, and she doesn’t let Cody play outside anymore, no matter how much he begs.

Environment Local News

LG&E Discusses Coal Ash Sampling With Cane Run Families

Louisville Gas and Electric gathered three southwest Louisville Monday night to discuss the results of recent studies on coal ash. The studies were commissioned to determine whether the hazardous ash was leaving LG&E’s Cane Run power plant, as the homeowners have asserted.

LG&E did two sets of sampling. The first set took results directly off houses, and showed high concentrations of fly ash. The second one used passive air sampling and had much lower concentrations.

In their presentation to the three families whose homes were tested, LG&E officials spent the most time on the results that were more favorable to the company. They dismissed the first set of samples, saying they may not be representative because the ash may have built up over time. Family members pointed out the passive samples were taken during an especially rainy month, which may have diminished the dust.

Steve Turner, the general manager at the plant, discussed the results with the families.

“And we want to be a good neighbor. We’re fully in compliance with all of our standards,” Turner said.

“I’m not so sure,” said Kathy Little.

“Well, I’m sure you are,” replied her husband, Tony. “What we’re saying is, the standards that you’re in compliance with aren’t enough. And I think LG&E could certainly take a look at going beyond the standard, looking at the health issues.”

“And we as a company, we always have,” Turner replied.

Later on, Tony Little said the meeting didn’t allay his concerns.

“I won’t call it a dog and pony show because it was a little bit more than that,” he said. “But the scientist was there to confuse us, to mitigate the fact that there’s fly ash and bottom ash on our homes, which it shouldn’t be.”

The company said more testing needs to be done, but is considering several different dust control options.

Environment Local News

LG&E to Meet with Cane Run Road Residents About Coal Ash Reports

Louisville Gas and Electric will hold a meeting with several southwest Louisville homeowners tonight to discuss the results of two recent studies about coal ash and the Cane Run Road power plant.

LG&E stores coal ash in landfills and in a pond on its property in southwest Louisville. Those who live near the plant have complained that ash is leaving the facility and contaminating their homes.

LG&E received two reports last week. The first contained results from dust sampling done on three nearby homes, and showed high concentrations of fly ash. The second had the results from more passive air sampling and showed much lower quantities of coal ash.

LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan says the company wants to meet with the residents whose homes were sampled to share the results.

“We wanted to sit down with them face-to-face and actually discuss the results and, you know, again, give them a tour of the facility, see what their neighbor is like and listen to their concerns,” she said.

LG&E’s permit allows a set amount of ash to come out of the smokestack and a smaller amount off the landfill, but if the ash poses a nuisance to neighbors the city can make the company fix the problem.