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Metro Government Plans to Fine LG&E for Recent Coal Ash Releases

The Metro Air Pollution Control District says Louisville Gas & Electric will be penalized for clouds of coal ash that were released from a malfunctioning machine last week.

Residents living near the Cane Run Power Station reported seeing coal ash leaving the company’s landfill on Saturday, July 30. The company said the dust was caused by a mechanical error on their sludge processing plant–a machine that mixes coal ash with lime to create a cement-like material. Another release was documented last Thursday, as LG&E cleaned the machine in preparation for it to be fixed.

The notices of violation for these two incidents haven’t been issued yet, but APCD executive director Lauren Anderson said they will be soon.

At the same time, the district is still working with LG&E to resolve earlier complaints from Cane Run neighbors that coal ash has been contaminating their homes. Anderson says that in addition to a $4,000 fine, her staff has been meeting with LG&E to discuss remediation measures. She says those solutions may include greater communication with neighbors and the company washing nearby homes.

Besides removing coal ash from the houses, washing would also provide a baseline for future dust sampling, Anderson said. That future dust sampling is something LG&E and the Air Pollution Control District will be discussing this week.

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A Different Kind of Tour

Several dozen Louisvillians boarded a bus this morning at St. William Church in West Louisville.  They set off to view and learn about the kinds of sites you wouldn’t want on a sight-seeing tour: a garbage dump, a chemical factory, a sewage treatment plant.  But these were no unusual tourists.  These were participants in Kentucky Interfaith Power and Light’s Environmental Health and Justice Tour.

The point was to give participants an insight into the twin injustices of poverty and environmental blight.  The two, tour leaders contend, are often found together in this town.  The toxic air in Rubbertown didn’t arrive overnight, they said, and neither did the pollution in Chickasaw Park Lake.  But the culmination of so much pollution from a concentration of so much industry in western Louisville has effectively segregated these largely African American and poor neighborhoods from the rest of a city that has tended to ignore it.

The tour included stops at the Rohm and Hass plant, the Superfund site at Lees Lane, the Morris Forman Wastewater Treatment facility, the Ford Motor Assembly plant, and homes at Lake Dreamland.

The relatively new head of the city’s air pollution control board, Lauren Anderson, addressed the crowd, as did the city’s top health official, Dr. Adewale Troutman.  Troutman said that western Louisville residents have some of the highest incidences of asthma and cancer in the city, as well as some of the highest instances of crime, poverty, and low education levels. He said investing in education, which would in turn help boost income rates with better jobs, could be the single most important way to creating a better future for residents.

Organizers hope to take the tour to schools and colleges.

Local News

Louisville Names New Air Pollution Control Director

Lauren Anderson has been named the new director of the city’s Air Pollution Control District. She takes over from Art Williams, who retired earlier this year.  Anderson steps into the job at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency has just tightened the standards for two key pollutants: ozone and fine particulates, or soot.  And she says making sure the city is in compliance with those new standards will be a priority.  She also begins her new job in a tough economy.  While the district has not suffered the budget cuts other agencies have, she says the utilities it regulates are struggling.

“This agency will do whatever we can to provide whatever service they need from us.  At the same time, we’ve got to protect the environment, we’ve got to try to meet those national standards, and respond to concerns of the community and environmentalists,” Anderson says.

The district works with utility companies such as LG&E to try to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources.