Lowdown on the Landfill
Trimble residents air concerns about proposed LG&E waste site
Friday, February 21, 2014 10:00 AM
Trimble County residents voiced their concerns to Kentucky state officials Thursday night about Louisville Gas & Electric's plans to create an industrial waste landfill on company property.
Sonia McElroy talks with another Trimble County resident at a public meeting at Trimble County High School on Thursday. The meeting was hosted by the Energy and Environmental Cabinet, Division of Waste Management in regard to an LG&E application to build a special waste landfill in the county. McElroy was worried that LG&E would ship coal ash from other counties into Trimble County. Division of Waste Management manager Ron Gruzesky said any attempts to bring waste in from another site would require additional permitting. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Nearly 75 people attended the two-hour public meeting at Trimble County High School to discuss a permit for a special waste landfill filed by LG&E last month.
Ron Gruzesky of the state's Division of Waste Management Solid Waste Branch told residents the permit proposes a disposal area of 189 acres for industrial waste generated from coal combustion for electrical generation.
The proposed landfill site is between Ogden Ridge and Wentworth roads near Bedford in the same vicinity of a landfill that had been proposed in 2011.
A conveyor system would take the industrial waste from the Trimble County generating station to the lined landfill east of the station.
LG&E recently reapplied for a special waste landfill permit after residents brought the location of a cave to the attention of state officials during a previous public meeting in 2011. The cave caused a "fatal flaw" to be found in the previous application, Gruzesky said.
"Us learning that information of the cave led to the denial of the permit," he said. "You all know much more (about the location) than we do in Frankfort."
Because of that flaw, LG&E officials moved the proposed site of the landfill away from the cave - by about 400 feet - and deeper into the ravine on the property.
Gruzesky told the audience he arraigned for a public meeting about 45 days after receiving LG&E's permit application to learn of other potential "fatal flaws" in the site from area residents.
Residents didn't waste any time pointing out issues with the proposed landfill property.
Some residents raised concerns about the karst features or sinkholes on the property, while others talked about the water wellhead intakes in Wises Landing and the wind issues on one of the highest points in the county.
One audience member questioned the stability of the ground, referencing the recent sinkhole at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The audience questioned how safe it would be to place industrial waste on ground where sinkholes could suddenly cause the soil to fall away.
Gruzesky said geologists would be brought in to look at the area to determine if or where sinkholes could occur on the property. State officials also will look to identify any additional karst features inside the landfill footprint.
Trimble County Attorney Perry Arnold brought up water wellheads for two different water districts located just a few miles away from the proposed landfill site. Gruzesky noted the state was aware of the water intakes, but no specific studies on the waterways in the area had been completed yet.
Water studies hadn't been completed as part of the 2011 permit process because the application process didn't get to that point, he said. State department officials focused resources on the study of the cave, which caused the 2011 permit to be denied in 2013.
Other residents asked why a landfill that was expected to be filled with dry material would be placed on one of the highest points in the county - and a location known for wind - where the bottom ash, fly ash and other waste materials would have the chance to scatter and fly above the fence surrounding the property.
Gruzesky said the Solid Waste branch wasn't aware of the altitude of the area, but made a note to study the location for susceptibility of high winds or tornados.
"We're going to need to take a look at that," he said.
Still, most everyone was concerned about health risks involved with the industrial waste material that would go into the landfill.
Trimble County resident Rick Carter said he and his family moved to the area to get away from the health issues from city pollution.
"You all expect us to put an ash pond in our backyard (for a company) that we don't even use," Carter said, noting his electricity doesn't come from LG&E.
Kelly Leach, who lives next to the LG&E property, said the 100-foot buffer zone required by the state wasn't enough to keep neighbors safe.
Gruzesky acknowledged the space wasn't a large amount of space between homeowners and the landfill.
"I would agree a 100-foot buffer zone is not very much," Gruzesky said.
Wentworth Road daycare provider Andrea Dunlap questioned who would take care of medical bills for the children she cares for when they begin to have respiratory issues because of the dust from the landfill next door.
Ogden Ridge Road resident Steve Boldery said homeowners near the site don't have many options when it comes to living beside the health risk.
LG&E hasn't offered a fair value for his property, he said, and he can't sell because of potential buyers' health concerns of living near a landfill filled with the waste generated from coal.
"Our property...we're stuck," Boldery said. "I'm going to have to live next to this conveyor belt."
Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer Thomas Pearce asked why laws protected the lives of animals living inside a lime cave on the property, yet no law seemed to protect the humans living nearby.
"You protected Wentworth Cave," Pearce told Gruzesky during the meeting. "Now protect the community."
The audience also questioned the absence of LG&E representatives at the meeting to respond to public questions.
Representatives aren't required to attend the public meeting, Gruzesky said. He also noted community members and LG&E officials almost became "combative" toward one another in 2011.
"I really didn't want LG&E here tonight," he said. "This is a state meeting."
In an email sent to The Madison Courier prior to the public meeting, LG&E spokeswoman Liz Pratt said the company had studied various options for the proposed landfill before choosing to move forward with the permit application again. Additional research into the location did not find any historic or unique sites in the new proposed footprint, she wrote.
The current plan is the most feasible proposal with the least amount of environmental impact, Pratt said in the email. The company also proposes the use of a state-of-the-art closed pipe conveyor system to transport waste materials.
The landfill would be built in phases should the permit be approved, the email said.
If approved, the new permit would replace a previously approved 1992 permit with a disposal area of 840 acres. The 1992 permit - while still on the books - was approved before several landfill permit changes over the last two decades.
"There are a number of problems with that permit even though it's still on the books," Gruzesky said, noting the 1992 permit may not be usable after all of the new regulations.
The permitting process for a special waste landfill usually takes about two years, he said, and it could be at least 2016 before any final decision is made by the Division of Waste Management Solid Waste Branch. Additional permits would need to be approved by other agencies before the permit application could move on to a draft permit.
Another public meeting would be held at a later date should the application move on to a draft stage.