“Leeper Act,” lifts Kentucky’s 33-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction

Kentucky United We Stand, Divided We Fall

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Governor’s Office

MEDIA ADVISORY

Contact: Woody Maglinger
502-564-2611
Woody.Maglinger@ky.gov

Gov. Bevin to Ceremonially Sign “Leeper Act”

Wednesday in Paducah

SB 11 lifts 33-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 12, 2017) – Gov. Matt Bevin will join state and local officials in Paducah on Wednesday to ceremonially sign the recently enacted Senate Bill 11. The legislation, known as the “Leeper Act,” lifts Kentucky’s 33-year-old moratorium on nuclear power plant construction.

McCracken County is home to the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, which produced enriched uranium from 1954 until 2013 and employed more than 1,000 local residents at its peak.

Who:

Governor Matt Bevin
Senator Danny Carroll
McCracken County Judge/Executive Bob Leeper

What:

Ceremonial Signing of Senate Bill 11 (“Leeper Act”)

When:

Wednesday, June 14
5:00 p.m. (CDT)

Where:

Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce
300 South 3rd Street
Paducah, Kentucky

###

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Owner of Old Louisville Pesticide Plant Prepares to Sell

Black Leaf property owner gives Courier-Journal exclusive look inside a property that triggered the state’s biggest ever urban environmental cleanup.

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

Image result for BLACK LEAF PROPERTY LOUISVILLE KY

By JAMES BRUGGERS, The Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Metal roofing has collapsed.

Trees are growing tall inside buildings. Walls are heavily tagged with graffiti.

And trespassers have set up makeshift camping or lounge areas among the arsenic and long-banned pesticides, having hauled in several couches in recent months – one of them with two small toy dolls left on the cushions.

It’s now about seven years into what Kentucky officials have called their largest urban environmental cleanup, and property owner Tony Young, on a rare tour of what he calls the Louisville Industrial Park, says: “I need to speak my piece. If I don’t do it now, I won’t have any chance.”

The 29-acre property, known by regulators as the Black Leaf site for a tobacco-based pesticide once made there, is scheduled for a foreclosure sale on Friday.

After long-banned pesticides like DDT and other dangerous chemicals or heavy metals were found in the soil, Young said he became unable to pay the $20,000 monthly mortgage he owed to First Capital Bank of Kentucky. He also owes the city nearly $1 million in back property taxes and the Metropolitan Sewer District $200,000 for several years of unpaid drainage fees. But as Young this week faces the loss of the property he’s owned since 1999, he is taking steps to recover financially while he promotes his plan to develop affordable housing for western Louisville.

Young last week sued his bank, a bank holding company, and ExxonMobil, claiming in a U.S. District Court filing that businesses have entered into “a secret deal” that cut him out and could cost him more than $20 million. He said he believes a new business cooperating with the bank and ExxonMobil intend to buy the property in a process that will wipe away the liabilities for the new owner and will allow ExxonMobil’s plan to proceed.

But that plan, he contends, would require a lesser degree of cleanup than his, which would need to meet more stringent standards for residential development.

“I am going to get my money back, one way or the other,” Young told the Courier-Journal. But if the ExxonMobil plan wins the day, “it screws all the community” by leaving chemicals behind and not meeting demand for affordable housing, he added.

Still, his plan does not appear to be going anywhere.

Exxon plan favored

The state of Kentucky instead is casting its provisional blessing on an alternative proposal backed by the giant oil company, Occidental Chemical Corp., and Grief Inc. to get the property ready for recycling it into future industrial or commercial businesses, with the less extensive cleanup that would require. Each of those companies inherited liability for past pollution, state officials have said.

City officials see the foreclosure sale as potentially removing a logjam by getting the property into the hands of a business with the financial ability to bring economic development to the blighted property – and to remove a festering eyesore and safety hazard just two miles from downtown in one of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

Park Hill, where the property is located, is one of the crime-riddled communities Louisville Metro Police are focusing extra enforcement efforts in this year, along with Victory Park, Russell, Smoketown, Shawnee, Russell and Shelby Park

Theresa Zawacki, a senior policy adviser for Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development arm, said it is hard to predict the outcome of the foreclosure sale. But she said she expects more than one bidder on the property, now that businesses with liability for the pollution are ready to begin remediation. Friday’s sale is “another step in that process,” she said.

It’s large and directly served by rail, and suitable for industrial purposes, she said. “When things like this come up, there is typically a lot of interest,” she added.

Already, the state and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency teamed up to remove contaminated soil from dozens of homes near the industrial site.

But the Courier-Journal in 2016 reported that Kentucky Division of Waste Management officials had said they could not under state law force a full cleanup to residential standards inside the property. This week, a spokesman for the waste management division, John Mura, said state officials have accepted the technical portions of the ExxonMobil plan “with the caveat that Exxon must be able to demonstrate property access and the ability to place an environmental covenant on the property if necessary.

“To date, Exxon has not demonstrated that ability.”

He said state officials hope the Young lawsuit “does not further delay the restart of remedial work that could begin soon after the property access and ownership issues are resolved.”

Security concerns

Exxon has played a key role in working with the state on a remediation plan.

“ExxonMobil seeks access to the property to meet its environmental and regulatory obligations,” said Todd Spitler, company spokesman. “We continue to work under the direction of (Kentucky regulators) to develop and implement a remedy for this site that is protective of human health and the environment.”

A First Capital Bank of Kentucky representative did not return a request for comment.

Some of the chemicals found on the property have been measured at hundreds to thousands of times higher than state officials consider safe.

Young granted the Courier-Journal its first tour of the property on Monday, where he sought to make a case for his position. He portrayed himself as a man looking out for a neighborhood troubled by drugs and violence. He said he feels his bank, Exxon and state officials turned against him. “I’ve tried my best. I’ve cooperated with the state,” he said.

The Kentucky Resources Council, an environmental group, also supports cleanup to residential standards, said its director, attorney Tom FitzGerald.

That would best help to “redress a burden that the neighbors have borne for entirely too long, and to provide for the broadest range of future uses,” he said. Leaving polluted soils in place shifts costs to the next generation, he said, adding “it may be legal, but it does not make it just or moral.”

Metro Councilman David James, who represents the area, had also been pressing for a cleanup that would do what Young was seeking – allow for residential development.

James said Tuesday he has not yet heard from the state environmental agency on Black Leaf cleanup requirements and is frustrated that a problem discovered in 2010 remains unsolved.

“I would like to have had it resolved five years ago,” he said.

James also said he was concerned to hear that trespassers or squatters may have set up camps by bringing in couches. He said he did not see any of that several months ago on a visit to the property. “It makes it difficult for police because they don’t have access to it,” said James, a former police officer. “It’s private.”

He also said he may need to “find out why Mr. Young is not doing more to prevent people from coming onto the property he owns – like hiring private security.”

For his part, Young said the property is too large to keep everyone out.

James also said he was not aware of any discussions between Young and the city to bring low-income housing to the property. “At this point, Mr. Young has financial interests in the property and is looking for a way to cover his interests,” James said.

Young said he had been working with the nonprofit Housing Partnership Inc., on the low-income housing plan. The partnership has ties to the city – Mayor Greg Fischer is a board member – and several years ago looked into whether a several-hundred unit affordable housing plan was economically feasible prior to the discovery of the contaminated soils.

That kind of contamination “stops development in their tracks,” said Mike Hynes, president of the partnership.

Last year Hynes reiterated his partnership’s interest in the property for low-income housing if the environmental problems could be worked out. But Hynes said: “The property has to be safe for people to live there.”

Details lacking

Young said his cleanup plan, which he said has been rejected, would have piled a lot of contaminated soils in berms, where it would be permanently entombed.

But he also offered no details on its costs.

When the Courier-Journal on Monday requested details on the two cleanup plans from the state, Mura told the Courier-Journal to submit a request for documents under the Kentucky Open Records law because the matter was now in litigation.

The state, however, is not part of that litigation, and the Courier-Journal is still waiting for a response to the records.

For his part, Young tells a story of how what he thought would be a good, $1.9 million investment has turned into a nightmare that’s cost him dearly. He said he had the property checked out by environmental consultants – a bank requirement – before purchasing it, and they found none of the problems that state officials later discovered.

“I tried to do something good here,” he said. “I am still trying to do something good.”

CONTINUE READING…

Kentucky Regulators, Industry Reps Privately Rewrote Coal Ash Rules

By Erica Peterson

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Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet has finalized a controversial plan to let the state’s utilities virtually self-regulate the storing of hazardous coal ash near power plants.

As details about the plan emerged over the past few weeks, Cabinet Secretary Charles Snavely defended the rules and the process, saying it included “full public participation.”

But documents obtained by WFPL News show the process was far from public and instead included more than a year of backroom meetings — under both former Gov. Steve Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin — with representatives of the utility industry. During that time, documents show the regulations were significantly revised and weakened.

When regulators began meeting with representatives of the utility industry in September 2015, the regulations they had drafted (left) were extensive. By the time they submitted the drafts to the Legislative Research Commission in October 2016 (right), the regulations were weakened.

Environmental attorney Tom FitzGerald of the Kentucky Resources Council, who has spent more than 44 years working in the state, and oftentimes on workgroups with members of industry and regulators to craft regulations, said to his knowledge, such one-sided input from industry is unprecedented in recent years.

“I think it’s unconscionable, and I think it does not reflect well on how little value [the regulators] place on public involvement in the development of regulations that are intended to protect the public,” FitzGerald said.

Representatives from the Energy and Environment Cabinet declined an interview request. In response to emailed questions, spokesman John Mura defended the cabinet’s regulatory process.

“As a part of the pre-KRS 13A deliberative process of regulation development, it is common for the state to informally discuss regulatory matters with the regulated sector that are directly impacted by those regulations,” Mura wrote.

He also pointed to a public comment period and a public hearing held in November 2016. After public comments were received, the agency made minor changes to the rule.

Dangers of Coal Ash

Coal ash — also called “coal combustion residuals,” or CCR — is the byproduct of burning coal for electricity. It’s often stored in dry landfills or wet ponds, or recycled into products like concrete or wall boards.

But it also contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic. And environmental advocates say that’s why it’s so important there’s adequate state and federal oversight over coal ash disposal.

“Coal ash is a toxic substance that if handled incorrectly can take human lives, can make people sick, can ruin the environment, lakes, rivers, streams, permanently,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.

In the past decade, there have been two high-profile instances — in Kingston, Tennesee and Eden, North Carolina — where large-scale coal ash spills have contaminated miles of rivers and land. But there have also been numerous other cases where there have been smaller amounts of pollution, where coal ash has caused air problems or has leached chemicals into groundwater.

Kentucky Division of Waste Management geologist Todd Hendricks mentioned a few of those instances in public comments he made about the cabinet’s proposed coal ash rule:

“Analysis of groundwater and leachate from CCR units in Kentucky has shown elevated levels of heavy metals, sulfate, boron, and other contaminants. One facility is conducting groundwater corrective action for contamination of karst springs with arsenic leaching from an inactive surface impoundment. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of arsenic-contaminated groundwater per day are captured and pumped to the active surface impoundment for dilution and discharge through a permitted outfall. At another facility, state laboratory analysis of one recent sample of fluid (presumably leachate) flowing from the toe of a closed CCR landfill showed 9.81 mg/L of arsenic, which is 981 times the maximum contaminant level (MCL).”

Coal ash wasn’t regulated by the federal Environmental Protection Agency until 2015. But with the publication of the first-ever federal coal ash rules in the Federal Register, the EPA set out new standards designed to be incorporated into states’ existing regulatory framework.

And that’s when the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet began working on the state’s version of the regulations.

Emails Show Industry-State Meetings

By its own admission, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management spent more than 1,600 hours working on the regulation in 2015, under former governor Steve Beshear.

On Sept. 3, 2015, regulators sat down with representatives from Kentucky’s utility industry. They screened a PowerPoint presentation on the current draft version of the rules. And on the 12th slide, regulators told the utility representatives that their facilities would no longer be able to qualify for a program called a “permit-by-rule” for coal ash sites. Instead, they would have to stop accepting coal ash into their landfills and ponds by Oct. 19, 2015, or get a permit for disposal.

That wasn’t the last meeting between regulators and industry representatives to discuss the coal ash rules. Emails obtained through an open records request show they met in person at least three more times — in October 2015, and April and June 2016.

State regulators shared drafts of the regulations with Tom Shaw, the environmental director of Big Rivers Electric Corporation, and Jack Bender, the attorney representing the Utility Information Exchange of Kentucky, an industry group. And both men sent regulators UIEK’s comments on the proposals multiple times, months before the agency took comments from the public.

Bender declined a request for additional comment, and Shaw didn’t respond to a voicemail message.

When regulators went into that meeting on Sept. 3, 2015, the draft CCR rules were extensive. They covered groundwater monitoring, inspections, technical specifications for recycling coal ash and plans for closing facilities.

But by the time the draft regulations were released to the public in October 2016, they didn’t contain any of those specifics. And the regulations proposed regulating the electric utilities with a “permit-by-rule” — the very mechanism that the state declared it would not use during that September meeting.

Oversight Steps for Coal Ash Removed

In the proposal released to the public in October, electric utilities wouldn’t have to apply with the state for a permit to build a landfill or pond for coal ash. Instead, the state determined the utilities would have a “permit-by-rule” and could begin constructing coal ash units without prior permitting or review by state regulators.

Right now, utilities building coal ash units need a permit from the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. The process sometimes takes years and involves professional engineers, geologists and environmental technicians. Often permits are also needed from the Kentucky Division of Water.

Under the new proposal, those wouldn’t be necessary.

The state’s approach has been modified somewhat in the final version to a “registered permit-by-rule.” This means utilities will have to register before they begin construction of landfills or ponds, but there will still not be a rigorous permitting process.

“It’s the Wild West, basically,” FitzGerald said. “You get to characterize [the project] on your own, if you do at all, you get to manage it at the location you decide, you get to control the design, the construction, the operation, the closure, the post-closure. And the only time the state is going to become involved is after you screw up. If they find out about it.”

FitzGerald said skipping a rigorous permit review process — where the utility and regulators work together to design the project — could pose myriad problems.

If groundwater monitors aren’t put in the correct locations, they might not detect water pollution. Sensitive ecological or historical sites — like Wentworth Cave on Louisville Gas and Electric’s Trimble County property — could be buried under coal ash forever.

Or, in the most extreme cases, an engineering error could lead to structural flaws in a project and result in a catastrophic coal ash spill.

Cabinet spokesman Mura wrote in an email that the state’s end product is an attempt to comply with the federal rules.

“It was the Obama EPA, after a lengthy regulation development process, that promulgated an industry self-implementing program with no permitting program and with the public/state involvement process done via posting of information on industry website(s),” Mura said.

The EPA’s rules were self-implementing but intended to be incorporated into a state’s existing framework. More recently, Congress approved the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, which directs states to work the new federal standards into existing permitting programs.

Legal Challenges Possible

It’s not illegal for regulators to consult with industry representatives before a draft regulation is released for public comment.

Instead, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet routinely seeks input from so-called stakeholders early in the process. But usually that input includes people on different sides of the issue — not just industry representatives but also people from environmental groups, landowners and others with a stake in how the regulations play out,

FitzGerald said that kind of approach — where all sides are engaged early on in the process — ensures that when the regulations are released for public comment, multiple perspectives have been taken into account.

“It is far preferable and I think much more productive and you get a much more responsible work product when you have input from all of the stakeholders,” he said. “And yet in this case, the input came solely from the regulated industry. And the result was a serial weakening of a responsible approach into one that I think is the most irresponsible approach I have seen in my 44 years of working on these issues on behalf of the public.”

Before the rule is finalized, it will need approval from two legislative committees. FitzGerald said if it wins approval, he might consider seeking judicial review.

CONTINUE READING AND TO AUDIO!

ATTENTION KENTUCKY: ANOTHER PIPELINE PLAN FOR NATURAL GAS LIQUIDS

Saturday, 08 November 2014 10:00

 

 

 

 

The alarm is ringing again for Kentuckians who already stopped one potentially hazardous pipeline project. Public backlash plugged plans for the Bluegrass Pipeline, which included building 180 miles of new pipeline to help transport natural gas liquids from the Northeast to the Gulf Coast. Now, less than a year later, another pipeline for the fracking industry is in the works – this time to repurpose the Tennessee Gas Pipeline to move natural gas liquids. Environmental advocate Chris Schimmoeller calls it “a far different beast” from natural gas.

The Tennessee Gas Pipeline system currently travels just over one-thousand miles from Pennsylvania to Louisiana. Installed primarily in the 1950s, it runs 256 miles through 18 Kentucky counties. Campbellsville, Danville, Glasgow, Morehead and Richmond are among the towns near its path.

Energy conglomerates Kinder Morgan and MarkWest want to make the pipeline conversion to natural gas liquids by 2017. Marion County Judge Executive John Mattingly opposes the idea.

With this second pipeline controversy brewing in Kentucky, citizens who united to stop the Bluegrass Pipeline are hosting a summit tomorrow (November 8) in Lexington about fracking. Schimmoeller, one of the summit’s organizers, says there will also be a focus on how to move away from fossil fuels.

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Top ten climate polluters in Kentucky

James Bruggers, jbruggers@courier-journal.com 7:14 p.m. EDT September 30, 2014

 

 

Power plants top Kentucky’s biggest sources of climate pollution, according to just-released data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

There’s no surprise there.

But a prominent chemical plant in Louisville’s Rubbertown area — Dupont Louisville Works — is in the top ten biggest climate polluters in Kentucky for its emissions of hydrofluorocarbons, which the EPA say are actually more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to heating up the atmosphere.

The EPA released its fourth year of Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, detailing greenhouse gas pollution trends and emissions broken down by industrial sector, geographic region and individual facilities. In 2013, reported emissions from large industrial facilities nationwide were 20 million metric tons higher than the prior year, or 0.6 percent, driven largely by an increase in coal use for power generation, the agency said.

That figure intrigued me because conventional wisdom is that we’ve been burning more natural gas (which has less impact on the climate) and less coal.

RELATED: Air pollution district, union agree on job cuts

There is a lot of data to look at, and this is just my first crack at it. I started by doing a quick search of top emitters in Kentucky and Indiana, then top emitters in Louisville Metro, or Jefferson County.

Kentucky Utility’s Ghent plant topped all of Kentucky’s largest industrial sources of a several greenhouse gases, with 12.8 million metric tons released in 2013, the most current year for which the data is available. That’s up 12 percent from the year before. LG&E’s Mill Creek plant in Louisville ranked third, with 7.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, a 20 percent decrease since 2010, according to the data.

But Dupont, the long-time Rubbertown chemical plant, ranked 7th, emitting 4,1 million tons, nearly all of that hydrofluorocarbons. That number was down from about 6 million pounds in 2011.

So what are hydrofluorocarbons and what impact do they have on the climate?

From the EPA:

Unlike many other greenhouse gases, fluorinated gases have no natural sources and only come from human-related activities. They are emitted through a variety of industrial processes such as aluminum and semiconductor manufacturing. Many fluorinated gases have very high global warming potentials (GWPs) relative to other greenhouse gases, so small atmospheric concentrations can have large effects on global temperatures.

HCFCs can have a global warming potential of between 140 to 11,700 times that of carbon dioxide, EPA says. The larger the global warming potential, the more warming the gas causes, according to EPA. The agency explains it this way: “For example, methane’s 100-year GWP is 21, which means that methane will cause 21 times as much warming as an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period.”

Statewide rankings for Kentucky:

1) Ghent power plant, 12.8 million metric tons.

2) Paradise power plant, 12.1.

3) Mill Creek power plant, 7.9.

4) H.L. Spurlock power plant, 7.8.

5) Trimble County power plant, 7.3.

6) Shawnee power plant, 7.2.

7) Dupont Louisville Works chemical plant, 4.1.

8) R.D. Green power plant, 3.6.

9) East Bend power plant, 3.5.

10) Coleman power plant, 3.3.

Two southern Indiana power plants ranked among the top ten greenhouse gas emitters in Indiana:

1) Gibson power plant, 16 million metric tons.

10) Clifty power plant, 5.8 million metric tons.

 

CONTINUE READING…

After a toxin from blue-green algae shut down Toledo’s water system, regulators in Kentucky and Indiana take a look at their states’ drinking water utilities.

Kentucky steps up response to toxic algae risks

James Bruggers, jbruggers@courier-journal.com  2:04 p.m. EDT August 15, 2014

When toxic algae left 500,000 people in the Toledo, Ohio, area without drinking water for two days this month, one of Kentucky’s top environmental regulators took notice.

“I was sitting there on a Friday evening, hearing various things from various counterparts, and I was thinking this can happen in my state,” recalled R. Bruce Scott, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection. “What are we doing to be prepared?”

First thing the following Monday, Scott put that question to his staff, and Kentucky officials have been working since to get answers by combing through documents filed by many of the state’s 467 public drinking water systems, and reaching out to some with questions.

The inquiry steps up Kentucky’s response to its emerging problem of toxic algae blooms, first documented in the state in late 2012 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Taylorsville Lake.

The review puts drinking water safety front and center, in addition to state and Army Corps concerns about recreational exposure to blue-green algae — a cyanobacteria that can produce toxins causing skin or eye irritation, nausea, flu-like symptoms and liver damage.

The blooms occur with sunlight, slow-moving water and too many nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They’re made worse by pollution from sewage treatment plants, septic systems and runoff from fertilized farms and lawns.

COURIER-JOURNAL

Toxic algae makes a comeback at Kentucky and Indiana lakes

For the second year in a row, Kentucky and the corps have issued recreational advisories on some lakes because of the blooms. In all, 10 Kentucky lakes carry the warnings, including Barren River, Nolin River, Green River, Rough River and Guist Creek lakes.

None is closed to swimming, fishing or boating. Instead, authorities advise not swallowing lake water and washing well after swimming.

Source water concerns

In response to a Kentucky Open Records request, state officials acknowledged 10 public drinking water systems serving thousands of customers in Kentucky are drawing water from lakes with algae advisories.

They include the Shelbyville Water and Sewer Commission, Edmonson County Water District and the Grayson County Water District.

State officials said they know of no immediate drinking water threats from algae anywhere in Kentucky. And officials with the Louisville Water Co. — which provides water to about 850,000 people in Louisville and parts of Bullitt, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby and Spencer counties — said they do not have any issues with toxic algae.

But state officials said they want all Kentucky drinking water providers to be ready to handle algae problems, and that is why they are taking a closer look at Kentucky’s drinking water systems.

State officials acknowledged even more systems could be at potential risk, where monitoring for toxic algae has not yet occurred. And Scott said there could be gaps in technology or expertise at some utilities, especially smaller systems with fewer resources.

“We need to make sure we are properly educating and informing our smaller systems of what they need to do,” Scott said. “We are asking what can and should be done to make sure we are looking at everything that needs to be looked at.”

If Kentucky water utilities don’t have procedures for analyzing their source water for the different types of toxic algae, state officials recommend developing some.

Scott said they want to make sure all systems understand what treatment methods work, and have an emergency response plan if their water becomes unsafe for drinking.

Rural water systems contacted by The Courier-Journal said their customers don’t need to worry.

“We are staying on top of it,” said Tom Dole, general manager of the Shelbyville Water and Sewer Commission, which draws water from Guist Creek Lake.

“We are not experiencing … anything like the conditions that we read (about) and saw in Toledo,” said Kevin Shaw, general manager of the Grayson County Water District, which draws from Rough River Lake. “You could look at the water and see the algae. That is not the case in our reservoir.”

Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management surveyed its 33 public water utilities that rely on lakes in the wake of Toledo’s crisis, said Barry Sneed, IDEM spokesman. Bloomington’s water system was concerned about algae, so new samples were taken but no toxins or algae were detected, he added.

“We plan to keep in contact with systems that may be susceptible to algal blooms and if problems arise, we will work with the system to ensure treatment is adjusted to any address possible algal toxins,” he said.

COURIER-JOURNAL

Map of Kentucky and Inidiana lakes with elevated toxic algae

Prevention

Besides ensuring drinking water utilities are prepared, experts say Kentucky needs to do more to prevent the blooms.

“We need to step up our game,” said Gail Brion, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Kentucky with an expertise in water-borne illnesses and water treatment.

She said the state needs to better curb the nitrogen and phosphorous that gets into waterways from sewage, animal waste, fertilizers and other sources.

“Once a bloom has happened, it is too late,” she said. “The toxins persist in the environment months after formation, so even if the algae leave, the toxins can remain.”

Scott said Kentucky regulators know they need better control of nutrient pollution and his department is working on a nutrient-management plan to do just that.

But environmentalists worry the state won’t adopt stringent enough pollution limits and that state environmental agency budgets will continue, further putting Kentucky communities at risk of a drinking water crises.

“We need limits on pollutants and inspectors on the ground,” said Judy Petersen, executive director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, which has joined other groups in suing the EPA over nutrient pollution in the Mississippi Basin, including Kentucky and Indiana. Otherwise, she said, Kentucky residents “are rolling the dice” on safe drinking water.

When it comes to cyanobacteria, it quickly gets complicated.

The toxin that wreaked havoc in northern Ohio — microcystin — can be produced by a variety of blue-green algae, not just the Microcystic found in Lake Erie. And other types of blue-green algae have different toxins that can cause health problems.

Toledo draws water from a shallow area of Lake Erie that became inundated by blue-green algae that produced microcystin, said Greg Boyer, chair of the chemistry department at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in New York.

The city’s water utility had no ability to switch to another intake, where there was less blue-green algae, said Boyer, who is also acting director for the Great Lakes Research Consortium, a research network.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency had warned Toledo about problems with its aging treatment system in June, writing to the city’s mayor of “the precarious condition” of the system and its “imminent vulnerability to failure.”

Boyer said utilities should monitor for the types of blue-green algae that can produce toxins. He said equipment can be bought for $5,000 to $25,000 that can provide a continuous flow of toxic algae data.

“Then, at what point do you worry about it? We deal, in most cases, where the blooms have to be fairly thick,” he said. “When you can see it.”

Further complicating matters, Scott said, is that the EPA has yet to establish a uniform testing method for the algae toxins, or safe drinking water standards. EPA is working on that, but “we believe they need to accelerate their decision making based on what we are seeing in Toledo and other places, including Kentucky,” Scott said.

COURIER-JOURNAL

Toxic algae effects and precautions

Taylorsville Lake in Spencer County, a popular summer destination for water recreation, has fallen victim to an invasive and toxic algae over the past year. (Photo: Marty Pearl/Special to The CJ)

Louisville preparations

The Louisville Water Co. has an algae response plan that involves close tracking of algae in the Ohio River when it may be present: April to November.

The company’s aquatic ecologist, Roger Tucker, checks water samples through a microscope to determine what types of algae may be in the water, and whether they might cause any problems.

So far, the only algae problems Louisville Water has experienced comes from those that can make water taste or smell bad, Tucker said. This year, he said, there has been hardly any algae in the company’s river water.

Rivers are also less likely to have algae blooms because their water doesn’t get stagnant, said the water company’s chief scientist, Rengao Song. Sediment that often turns the Ohio brown blocks sunlight, preventing algae from growing, he said.

The water company’s Crescent Hill Treatment Plant is well-equipped to remove algae and any algae-caused toxins or chemicals that cause taste and odor changes, with processes that include absorptive activated carbon, he said.

Louisville also gets 30 percent of its water from wells deep under the Ohio River, where sand and gravel naturally filter tiny contaminants, including algae. That water feeds the company’s B.E. Payne treatment plant.

The water company is now working with engineering consultants on preliminary engineering for riverbank filtration for its Crescent Hill plant. Such a system should have no risk from toxic algae, Song said.

“The Louisville Water Co. has never detected any algae cells in its riverbank filtration water,” Song said.

Reach reporter James Bruggers at (502) 582-4645 or on Twitter @jbruggers.

Kentucky water systems that draw from lakes with toxic algae advisories:

• Shelbyville Water and Sewer Commission (Guist Creek Lake)

• Springfield Water Works (Willisburg Lake)

• Glasgow Water Co. and Scottsville Water Department (Barren River Lake)

• Edmonson County Water District (Nolin River Lake)

• Columbia/Adair County Regional Water Commission and Campbellsville Municipal Water (Green River Lake)

• Grayson County Water District and Litchfield Water Works (Rough River Lake)

• Mount Sterling Water Works (Greenbriar Creek Reservoir)

Source: Kentucky Division of Water

CONTINUE READING….

LG&E and KU withdraw request for Green River facility

Still pursuing solar generating facility request

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Aug. 12, 2014) — Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company informed the Kentucky Public Service Commission today that they will withdraw their application for a second natural gas combined-cycle generating facility, but plan to continue to pursue a solar generating facility.

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The announcement comes as a result of nine municipal utility customers’ decision to terminate in 2019 their wholesale power contracts with Kentucky Utilities. Those contracts total approximately 320 megawatts of peak demand.

LG&E and KU filed the request with the KPSC in January to build an approximately 700-megawatt NGCC generating facility in Muhlenberg County and a 10-megawatt solar photovoltaic facility in Mercer County. The need for the NGCC, which was expected to be completed by 2018 and cost approximately $700 million, was based in part on energy forecasts through 2035 that included serving the municipal customers.

Following the municipal utilities’ termination notices, LG&E and KU put the new generation requests on hold for 90 days to weigh the impacts of the termination notices on future generation plans. As a result, LG&E and KU have decided to withdraw their application for the NGCC. Plans remain in place for the $36 million solar facility at KU’s existing Brown facility. If approved, the solar unit would go online in 2016.

“We’ve analyzed the situation carefully and believe that it is in the best interest of all of our customers to withdraw our current application for the natural gas combined-cycle unit in Western Kentucky,” said Paul W. Thompson, chief operating officer. “Removing more than 300 megawatts of demand changes our load forecasts and thus delays the need for new generation.”

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