Environmental groups ask federal court to order coal waste cleanup at Herrington Lake

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 13, 2017) – In a federal lawsuit filed today, Sierra Club and Kentucky Waterways Alliance allege the E.W. Brown Power Plant near Harrodsburg is leaking pollution into Herrington Lake and ask the court to order Kentucky Utilities to clean up coal ash waste contaminating water, sediments and fish.

San Francisco-based Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of the environmental groups. The Central Kentucky lake is popular for boating, fishing, swimming and supplies drinking water for tens of thousands of people.

E.W. Brown power plant on the shores of Herrington Lake has at least 6 million cubic yards of buried coal ash that sit in contact with groundwater flowing into the lake, according to the suit, which alleges Kentucky Utilities, an affiliate of Louisville Gas & Electric Co., has conducted testing that shows contaminants such as selenium, arsenic and boron have leached out of the coal ash into the groundwater. Separate tests by the Kentucky Division of Water found that 9 out of 10 fish samples collected near the E.W. Brown plant had levels of selenium that violate Kentucky water standards, according to the suit.

“Lake Herrington is one of Kentucky’s most beautiful lakes and has a rich aquatic ecosystem,” said Ward Wilson, executive director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance. “The lake is on the Dix River, just above its confluence with the Kentucky River, right by Shakertown. We have tried for years to get the releases stopped to no avail. Now we feel legal action is necessary to promptly correct this threat to wildlife and water quality that has been going on for too long already.”

LG&E responded Thursday to the lawsuit saying state monitoring reports no issue with drinking water supplies.

“We firmly believe E.W. Brown is in compliance with all applicable environmental regulations and we’re prepared to defend our case in court, if necessary,” said Chris Whelan, vice president of LG&E and KU. “The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet surveyed the water near the permitted outfall in Herrington Lake and found no evidence of contamination to the drinking water supplies. Additionally, the city of Danville and the Harrodsburg Water Treatment Plant affirmed that their water supplies have not been impacted by plant activities.”

“To ensure Herrington Lake and other drinking water supplies remain protected for the long term, the main ash pond was shut down in 2008 and we have approved plans with the state that include continued monitoring of Herrington Lake as well as lining a gypsum pond, shutting down a gypsum dewatering facility and eliminating discharges from the lined auxiliary pond,” Whelan said.

The environmental groups’ lawsuit requests that the federal court in Lexington order Kentucky Utilities to stop coal ash pollution from flowing into Herrington Lake and clean up the existing contamination.

“EW Brown has been burning coal since the 1950s and storing its toxic coal ash leftovers in a pit that directly impacts Herrington Lake,” said Tom Morris, chair of the Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter. “It’s sad that the only way to do anything about it is to wait to find out what the toxic slush does to harm the lake. Well, we found it hurting our fish population already, so we are acting before anything else shows up.”

 

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