Environment Local News

Groups Stress Necessity of Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

Even though President Barack Obama asked the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon a draft rule to tighten ozone standards, environmental groups hope the a pending federal rule on inter-state pollution will go into effect on January 1 as planned.

The Cross-State Air Pollution rule would put limits on the amount of pollution area power plants can put out, because the emissions often blow across state lines.

Former EPA Region 5 Administrator Mary Gade says the rule is necessary so states can take control over their regulatory programs. She says in 1990, Illinois did an analysis and realized:

“…that in Chicago alone we could take 2 million cars off the road and shut down 75 percent of our industry and still not meet our air quality obligations for ozone because of the air coming in across our state boundaries,” she said.

In a conference call today, representatives from the American Lung Association talked about the different ways pollution can affect human health, and how those health problems translate into money—both from health care costs and from missed work.

Cynthia Lee of the Louisville Air Pollution Control District says absenteeism is something her agency is tracking.

“Here in Jefferson County, Louisville, Kentucky, absenteeism for students is highest due to asthma,” she said.

She says researchers are correlating data from air quality alert days and relating it to absenteeism.

The rule would limit sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which have been shown to damage lungs and contribute to breathing problems.

Environment Local News

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.

Environment Local News

Rubbertown Company to Stop Using Hazardous Chemical

A Louisville chemical company plans to end its use of a hazardous chemical at its Rubbertown plant. The substance American Synthetic Rubber plans to stop using—toluene—is the same one that’s leaked twice in the past few weeks.

Toluene is a hazardous chemical that’s used in manufacturing rubber. Both times the releases were minor—they were a level one and two hazmat situation, respectively, and both times it was deemed the chemical didn’t pose any danger to the surrounding neighborhood.

The company applied for a permit from the Air Pollution Control District to start phase one of a construction project to change its infrastructure. The permit doesn’t specify what will replace toluene, except that it will be a non-hazardous chemical. A man who answered the phone at American Synthetic Rubber’s Camp Ground Road plant confirmed that the company will stop using toluene but wouldn’t elaborate.

The public can comment on the permit until the end of the month.

Environment Local News

LG&E Fined by Metro Government for Coal Ash Contamination

A coal ash cloud forms above LG&E's Cane Run Power Station after an equipment malfunction Saturday evening. Photo by Greg Walker. Metro Government has fined Louisville Gas & Electric for letting coal ash leave the Cane Run Power Station and contaminate nearby homes.

Two weeks ago, LG&E released test results that found ash on three area homes. Now, the city has fined the company $4,000 for violating the district’s fugitive dust rule.

The Air Pollution Control District has already met with the company and will decide internally whether the fine is sufficient. APCD spokesman Matt Stull says there could be other penalties for the violation.

“There also might be steps that are taken in regard to remediating the situation and trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future,” he said. “That’s a goal of the district, to try and not just punish a source but also to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the future.”

The case is complicated by a mechanical malfunction over the weekend that sent clouds of ash into the sky. The company shut down its sludge processing plant, which is a machine that mixes coal ash with lime to create a cement-like substance called Pozotec.

LG&E Spokeswoman Chris Whelan says the machine has been shut down indefinitely, and the company has formed a task force to determine the problem.

“We regret that there’s been any incident in that area,” she said. “The neighbors, we’re mindful of their concerns there and that’s the reason that we have assigned a task force to ensure that we get this equipment fixed and that we’re being a good neighbor.”

This new incident may be included in the previous complaint, which the APCD has done in the past.

Local News Uncategorized

Louisville Experiences 12th Air Quality Alert

The Air Pollution Control District has issued an Air Quality Alert for Wednesday and Thursday in Louisville.

This is already Louisville’s 12th Air Quality Alert, compared to 19 all of last year.  There were only four the year before that.

“Especially with ozone, heat and sunlight are needed to form ozone at the ground level,” Matt Stull of the Air Pollution Control District said.   “So, when we see days with hot and humid conditions and combine that with stagnant air, you combine that with emissions from tailpipes, you have a buildup of ozone.”

With a weather forecast predicting more hot weather, it’s likely to cause more alerts.

“We’re looking at high temperature in the mid 90s and continuing on Thursday, maybe low 90s on Friday,” Ryan Sharp of the National Weather Service said.  “And Sunday Monday and Tuesday all look to be in the mid 90s.”

The air in Louisville is currently categorized as “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”  People with asthma, children and the elderly could be affected, and are encouraged to limit their time outdoors.

Environment Local News

Air Quality Alert Issued For Metro Area

The Louisville Air Pollution Control District has issued an air quality alert for the metro area for Saturday and Sunday.

Officials say smoke from grassfires burning in the Fort Knox area and elsewhere have pushed levels of particle pollution into the unhealthy range.

Here’s more information from the APCD:

Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects.

Sensitive groups include children, older adults, active adults and anyone with heart and/or lung ailments.

Everyone: Cut back or reschedule strenuous outside activities.

Sensitive groups: Avoid strenuous outside activities.

Help the air on Air Quality Alert days with these simple steps:

Share a ride.
Delay your mowing.
Combine your errands.
Avoid idling.

Local News

Air Quality Alert Issued for Wednesday

by Stephanie Crosby

An Air Quality Alert has been issued for the Louisville area for tomorrow. Air Pollution Control District spokesperson Matt Stull says it’s the first alert of the year, and it’s coming earlier than usual.

He says the levels of ozone are expected to be dangerous for some people who are sensitive to air pollutants – such as children, the elderly and the chronically ill.

“It’s kind of doubly-hard for a lot of people because pollen levels are already up, and I know a lot of people who suffer with allergies and asthma as a result of the allergies, they’ve having a tough way to go,” says Stull. “So we’re really urging them to take care over the next couple of days to maybe limit their activity to the early morning or late in the evening.”

Stull says the city’s first air quality alert is coming earlier than usual because of the unseasonably warm temperatures and stagnant air. Last year’s first air quality alert came in late May.

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.