Front Porch Blog

Another Clean Water Win! No More Sludge in the Ohio River

A Kentucky court ruling for clean water comes as the EPA finalizes revisions to rules governing power plant wastewater discharge. Tell the EPA to develop strong standards to protect clean water before September 20.

A Kentucky court ruling for clean water comes as the EPA finalizes revisions to rules governing power plant wastewater discharge. Tell the EPA to develop strong standards to protect clean water before September 20.

Here’s some good news for your Thursday — a Kentucky court ruled in favor of clean water in a landmark case that will protect the Ohio River from being further polluted by coal waste.

The ruling comes just in time for a nationwide revision to a 30-year-old U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guideline linked to the court’s decision.

Back in 2010, Louisville Gas & Electric’s Trimble County coal plant near Bedford, Ky., was permitted to store toxic waste byproducts in a wet pond that flowed into the Ohio River. That means the only barrier between a stream of heavy metals, including arsenic and selenium, and the drinking water source for millions of people was a settling pond. Essentially, the Kentucky Division of Water had given LG&E a free pass to slowly poison the river and the communities that rely on it.

Kentucky Waterways Alliance, the Sierra Club, Valley Watch, and Save the Valley found that permit hazardous and unlawful — so they filed suit and built a strong case against LG&E and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, which submitted the permit to Division of Water. Judge Phillip Shepherd agreed with the clean water advocates. Citing the Cabinet’s “deficient” logic and misinterpretation of a certain 30-year-old EPA rule, the court threw out the permit.

It’s been a bad year for the Trimble Coal plant. Not only does it now have to pay for appropriate wastewater technology, the plant is running out of room to hide its dirty ash. Back in March, homeowners near the Trimble County plant organized to stop the permit for a third coal ash pond that was slated to be 218 acres and built on top of a historical cave. They won that fight after a year of hard work.

This court ruling couldn’t have come at a better time. The EPA’s 1982 Effluent Limitation Guideline referenced by the court as outdated and inadequate to meet Clean Water Act protections is currently under revision. The EPA is collecting public comments on proposed new standards for power plant wastewater disposal. Take a moment to send in your comment today – the deadline to demand clean water is September 20!

Coal ash ponds located across the United States are slowly killing our rivers, streams, lakes and bays. We can’t afford to live with arsenic-laden drinking water or rivers unsafe for swimming and fishing. Just like the brave folks in Kentucky, we can defend clean water that’s safe for everyone.

Thursday can only get better with some good ol’ democratic action. Uphold our collective right to clean water and send your comment to the EPA.

Kara Dodson worked with us as Appalachian Voices' Field Coordinator from 2013-2014, after serving as an Appalachian Water Watch intern for three summers prior. She is a life-long advocate of forests, horses, clean water and promoting community engagement to protect the natural environment.


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