Community members organize and speak out at hearing on coal ash landfill | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Community members organize and speak out at hearing on coal ash landfill

This post was written by Jefferson County KFTC member and intern Beth Bissmeyer.

Hearing the stories of the devastation caused by Mountaintop Removal coal mining is what first got me involved in KFTC. A few years later, I continue to be outraged by what my friends in Eastern Kentucky deal with daily, but I now also find myself enthralled by what is happening in my hometown, Louisville, with coal ash.

Louisville coal ash siteOver the past few months, I've learned more about my connections to the cycle of coal beyond extraction through learning about coal ash, which is the stuff that's leftover in smokestacks and furnaces after coal is burned in power plants. In February, I first learned of E.ON's plans to add a 60-acre coal-combustion waste (CCW) landfill adjacent to their Cane Run Rd. power plant in South Louisville, five miles away from the neighborhood I grew up in and from where I now live. Coal ash is a new issue to me and to many folks, but one thing's for sure, it's not the kind of stuff you want in your neighborhood or next to your city's water source. Coal ash contains concentrated amounts of heavy metals and other pollutants that have been found to cause cancer and other health problems in humans. A 2007 EPA report found that those living near coal ash dumps have a 1 in 50 chance of getting cancer. There is already a coal ash impoundment at the Cane Run Rd. site that the EPA considers "high hazard,â€ meaning that a dam break is likely to cause significant damage, including loss of life.

Jefferson County KFTC members have started organizing on this issue, mobilizing people to submit comments on E.ON's Section 404 permit through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and on the 401 Water Quality Certification Permit through the Kentucky Division of Water. Members made the permits viral through email and Facebook, and some also phone-banked and made fliers. Even though there was a short window of time to organize, members helped generate more than 100 letters and emails on the 404 permit.

2010_05_25 public hearing on Cane Run Rd CCW landfill (6)

2010_05_25 public hearing on Cane Run Rd CCW landfill (29)

Last Tuesday, concerned citizens were given the opportunity to speak out at a public hearing held by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. More than 125 people filed into the cafeteria at Conway Middle School, and while some were KFTC members, most of the people there were residents who live next to the proposed coal ash landfill site who organized on their own.

Several people who spoke at the hearing told of health problems they and their neighbors have ranging from high instances of asthma, learning disabilities, kidney disease, and multiple forms of cancer. Some noted that the area is polluted enough with not only the Cane Run Rd. power station, but also multiple chemical companies and an old toxic chemical dump. Monica Burkhead, a resident of Riverside Gardens who organized people in her neighborhood to come to the hearing by putting up fliers and going door-to-door, said of the already-standing coal ash landfill,

"You've got black soot everywhere; you buy a new car and within two years, your car's paint job is shot. You've got kids that have learning disabilities. There's excessive amounts of ADHD. There's excessive amounts of cancer, kidney disease. People are sick there constantly. They're dying. I'm just sick and tired of it. I've lived there for 35 years and all I do is watch people die.â€

2010_05_25 public hearing on Cane Run Rd CCW landfill (10)

Terri Humphrey gave comment while she and Monica held photos of the proposed site and of the 2008 Kingston coal ash spill. She spoke to the dangers of coal ash and to the frustration of finding discrepancies in information on the proposed landfill from different agencies who have a say in the process. Many residents didn't even find out about the hearing until a day or two before.

One older woman who's lived in Riverside Gardens for decades, Rose Wilson, fought back tears as she told the room that she's raised so many kids, her own and the neighborhood's, and is so tired of seeing them all get sick.

While the room was filled with people who are justifiably upset about this proposal, there was also a strong sense of community and need to act. A second hearing was promised by the Kentucky Department of Waste Management official who moderated the hearing, and Metro Council representative Judy Green said she and neighboring council representative Rick Blackwell will introduce a resolution to try to halt the application process until the EPA makes a decision on how to regulate coal ash. Still, the greatest sense of urgency came from community members.

Adonna Williams, a resident of Riverside Gardens, said, "Everybody, they get upset and they want to slack off, but you've got to stand there, you've got to fight the fight. If you don't fight the fight, if you don't keep on, if you don't keep going, then they'll always win.â€

Let's keep fighting the fight.

Take Action!

Stand with Adonna, Monica, and other residents of South Louisville and speak out against this proposed coal ash landfill. Comments may be submitted in writing by the close of business on June 18th to:

Ronald D. Gruzesky, P.E.

Division of Waste Management

200 Fair Oaks

Frankfort, KY 40601-1190

Please reference AI # 2121 and Application APE200100001 on any correspondence.


Some media coverage of the hearing:

To learn more about this issue and how you can get involved, please contact [email protected].

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