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Coal Ash Landfill Proposed in Kentucky as Spill Plays Out in N.C.

LG&E and KU Energy have proposed to build a new coal ash dump in Trimble County, Ky., according to the Courier-Journal.

State environmental regulators rejected a previous proposal submitted by the firm to develop a 189-acre landfill. 

When compared to the previous proposal, this landfill would shift toward the west, LG&E officials said Tuesday. That helps avoid what company officials call a “karst feature” but others call a cave. The distinction matters.

Caves are protected by a 1988 law that makes it “unlawful to remove, kill, harm or otherwise disturb any naturally occurring organism” in them. And last year, the Kentucky Division of Waste Management rejected the company’s landfill plan at Trimble after scrutinizing the cave on the property.

Also, a review done for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uncovered evidence that the cave, called Wentworth Cave, might have been part of the Underground Railroad that moved slaves to freedom.

The new proposal addresses the environmental impacts and will not disturb any historic sites, a company spokesperson told the newspaper. The new proposal moves the landfill southward and westward.

State officials will review the new proposal and a public meeting is scheduled for Feb. 20.

The company has been looking for an alternative for its coal burning wastes for several years. Up to now, it’s been disposing of the waste in ponds. But space is filling up and there is concern of leaks and spills from such facilities.

In fact, the proposal is coming in the midst of a coal ash spill in North Carolina.

According to the Charlotte Observer:

Duke Energy said Monday that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from a pond at its retired power plant in Eden into the Dan River, and were still flowing.

Duke said a 48-inch stormwater pipe beneath the unlined ash pond broke Sunday afternoon. Water and ash from the 27-acre pond drained into the pipe.

The pond has a liquid capacity of 155 million gallons when full, according to a recent inspection report, but was at a lower level because the Dan River power plant’s coal-fired units were retired in 2012. It’s not known how much ash was in the basin, but Culbert said most of it appears to still be in the pond.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a date for this year to make final disposal rules for coal ash as a nonhazardous waste material. The agency had been sued by environmental groups on the issue.

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