Sierra Club Says It Believes Shawnee Power Plant is Leaking Coal Ash into Waterways

Apr 9, 2014

Credit TVA

A Sierra Club official says the environmental group is investigating whether or not the Shawnee Fossil Fuel Plant is contaminating Kentucky waterways with coal ash.

Coal ash is the residue left after the plant burns coal to generate power.

Sierra Club Louisville organizer Thomas Pearce says the group has reason to believe the Shawnee plant is leaking coal ash from its retention ponds into McCracken County’s Little Bayou Creek.

This investigation comes after the Sierra Club claimed Louisville Gas and Electric violated the Clean Water Act and dumped coal ash into the Ohio River. The Sierra Club and Earthjustice plan to sue LG&E sending them a letter of intent in March.

But Tennessee Valley Authority Spokesman Scott Brooks says there aren’t any issues with the Shawnee plant’s coal ash retention ponds.

“Those are monitored according to state and federal regulations,” he said. “We have permits through the state and we also have federal groundwater and surface water regulations, and at any point, any point at any of our fossil plants if there are concerns that show up in the testing then we go back and work with the state to fix the problem”

Pearce though says the problem is with Kentucky’s regulations on water pollutants from fossil fuel plants.

“There are almost no statewide regulations on coal ash, and that is why we need new federal regulations,” he said. “That is the effort we’re making right now is to push for strong federal regulations of coal ash because this situation is ridiculous. According to the state of Kentucky it’s pretty much legal to do anything with coal ash.”

George Gilbert with the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection says there are limits to the amount of contaminants in retention ponds for facilities with a wastewater permit. But he adds that the Environmental Protection Agency is drafting regulations that would require facilities like Shawnee to line their retention ponds. There is also a pending federal proposal to end the wet handling of coal ash by 2022.