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LG&E Dismisses Metro Government Coal Ash Sampling; Releases New Data

Louisville Gas and Electric says the company has found little evidence of coal ash settling on homes near its Cane Run Power Station. The company is dismissing sampling performed by Louisville Metro Government that showed ash was present.

Residents living near the Cane Run power plant in southwest Louisville say dust and coal ash leave the plant and the material is contaminating their homes. Since last summer, LG&E produced results of two different types of tests—and the results were contradictory.

Last month, Metro Government analyzed its own samples. It found fly ash on a home that was washed only three weeks earlier. But now LG&E has released NEW data that shows negligible quantities of ash.

LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling says the company has taken samples off six homes over a three month period.

“The freshly washed surfaces have been checked over the last three months, and it’s been less than 1 percent fly ash in that particulate,” he said.

Keeling added that some emissions are normal—and allowed.

“In any industrial setting, you’re going to have emissions,” he said. “And you’re allowed to have “x” amount, and we’ve been in compliance the entire time with the EPA and with the Pollution…well, with the EPA.”

Under its permit, the company is allowed to emit a certain amount from its smokestacks. But as far as the city is concerned, if dust poses a nuisance to an industry’s neighbors and limits their right to enjoy their property, the city can require the company to take remedial measures.

Terri Phelps of the Air Pollution Control District says the agency stands by its results. The agency will likely issue a notice of violation to LG&E for problems associated with coal ash dust sometime this week or next.

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Independent Audit Finds LG&E, KU Customer Service Lacking

An independent review ordered by the Public Service Commission has found Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric’s customer service falling short of what is expected. The report was released today.

The review found that satisfaction with the utility’s customer service has steadily declined since 2008, and that call centers around the state aren’t meeting internal goals for answering calls quickly.

PSC Spokesman Andrew Melnykovych says there aren’t actual numeric standards the companies have to meet in terms of customer service, but:

“It’s a standard in the sense that utilities under Kentucky law are required to provide an adequate level of service and that includes things such as addressing customer complaints in a timely fashion and so forth,” he said.

The independent audit company will work with the utilities to develop an action plan. LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling says his company has faced several stressful events over the past few years that may have affected customer service and call volume, like major storms and a rate case. He says another factor might have been relying too much on new technology. “I think we were expecting our investment, and we did make significant investments in technology, would be picked up by our customers and they didn’t subscribe to the technology that we were driving as quickly as we thought they might,” he said.

But the audit mentions significant problems with the technology on LG&E’s end, like computer systems that are difficult for call center workers to use and computer malfunctions with meter reading and discontinuing accounts.

Keeling says the company will follow through with the report’s suggestions to improve customer service.

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Most Area Residents Should Have Electricity By Wednesday

Power should be restored to all but a few Louisville Gas & Electric customers by tomorrow. After the storm hit on Saturday, more than 119,000 in Louisville were without electricity. At 5:00p.m. there are currently more than 20,000 in Jefferson County without power.

LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling says residents should have power by Wednesday at the latest.

“I think we’re going to get the majority of our customers up today and tomorrow and we’ll have some stragglers on Wednesday,” he said. “And when I say ‘stragglers,’ I’m talking about houses where there’s a circuit where there’s a dozen or less on it.”

These are areas with lower population density farther from downtown.

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UPDATED: More Coal Ash Problems at Cane Run

Even though problematic machinery was briefly taken offline, there are still problems with coal ash at Louisville Gas & Electric’s Cane Run power plant. Residents are reporting seeing coal ash coming out of the plant and into the air both yesterday and today.

LG&E took the sludge processing plant out of commission after it malfunctioned, releasing clouds of coal ash. They started it up again last night, and LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling said it was operating correctly.

“The unit’s repaired now, and everything’s functioning just like it should,” he said. “Just normal.”

But residents documented clouds of ash rising above the plant. Keeling says a puff of dust when the machine started back up is normal.

“The puff lasted about 10 seconds,” Keeling said.

Greg Walker lives 50 yards away from the power plant’s landfill. He says the release lasted at least four hours—maybe longer, but it got dark. And this afternoon, more dust was spewing out of the same faulty sludge processing plant. Walker watched it, along with an official from the Air Pollution Control District.

“4:40 in the afternoon I’m looking at coal ash, dust blowing out of the sludge plant right in front of me,” Walker said. “APCD is sitting here watching it, LG&E employees have seen us and they keep on running it.”

As a short-term fix, Keeling said the sludge plant’s doors and windows were covered to help contain the dust. In the long term, he says the company is planning to encase the sludge processing plant in a structure to minimize the ash that gets out.

UPDATE: As of 7:15p.m., LG&E officials have temporarily shut the sludge processing plant down.