More than a year ago, environmental activists from The Sierra Club and EarthJustice attached a hidden camera to a tree near Louisville Gas & Electric's Mill Creek Generating Station. Over the course of twelve months, representatives say, they obtained photographs of the Kentucky plant continuously dumping allegedly dangerous waste into the Ohio River. On Monday, both groups filed a joint Notice of Attempt to Sue against the company: “We deserve clean water,” Thomas Pearce, regional organizer for the Sierra Club in western Kentucky, told Al Jazeera. “We’re calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to put forward more stringent guidelines for coal ash because states aren’t policing it. Look at North Carolina and the Duke spill.” The allegations against Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) are the latest in a series of controversies over coal-ash dumping. Last month, Duke Energy, the country’s largest electricity provider, spilled 35 million gallons of toxic coal-ash slurry into the Dan River. Coal ash contains high levels of arsenic, lead, selenium and other heavy metals that the EPA says can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory problems. The Sierra Club and EarthJustice say their soon-to-be-filed lawsuit against LG&E is based on time-lapse photography from a camera they strapped to a tree. The camera captured a year’s worth of images showing “dangerous” coal ash wastewater being dumped continuously into the Ohio River.The groups are asserting that the "steady stream coming out of the coal ash containment pond … every day, all day, all night" is a violation of the "occasional" dumping of waste allowed by the 1972 Clean Water Actand LG&E's permit. The Sierra Club also points out that the Mill Creek coal plant is only "500 feet from a large residental development and 1,000 feet from a middle school."
Danayit Musse is a Spring 2014 editorial intern.