Last October, a public hearing was held in Trimble County by the Kentucky Division of Waste Management concerning Louisville Gas & Electric’s application for a permit to build a 200-acre coal ash landfill. Ronald Gruzesky, the manager of the Solid Waste Branch, and LG&E spokesman Paul Puckett took questions and comments from the 100 Trimble citizens who attended — and who were universally angry and disapproving of the proposal to put this landfill in their neighborhood. A few of the people who spoke at the hearing also mentioned that there was a cave under the proposed site, which could complicate matters for the permit.
Yesterday, LEO Weekly spoke with LG&E spokesman Chip Keeling, who says there has been no problem with the permit so far.
“We’re just waiting on the permit now, we haven’t had any issues,” Keeling says. “I think there was some question at one time about whether there were caves at the location. And the fact is there are not. It’s not really a story.”
However, Gruzesky at the Division of Waste Management tells LEO a very different story. He says that they did find a cave at the site shortly after the hearing last October, and issued a notice of deficiency to LG&E in late November, which they have yet to respond to.
“We issued them a notice of deficiency on Nov. 30, 2011,” Gruzesky says. “And the specific reason for that was the cave, which was identified during the public hearing. And we found out — and didn’t even realize it at the time of the meeting — there’s a pretty specific cave law in Kentucky. So the notice of deficiency asked them to address the issues in the cave law. And they’ve talked to us about that. They haven’t formally submitted a response to that notice of deficiency.
“From our standpoint, the review has stopped, and the ball is in their court.
Gruzesky says the cave could be a serious obstacle to the LG&E permit request.
“Oh, it’s a pretty serious impediment,” Gruzesky says. “I think the big question is, is this something they can overcome? And it’s not something that we deal with on a routine basis, so I can’t point to any permitting history or any instances in our background and say, ‘Well this is what we’ve done previously.’ Because we’re on new ground here.”
Gruzesky says he expects LG&E to argue that what the Division of Waste Management found is not actually a cave by the definition of law.
Keeling and LG&E did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the notice of deficiency regarding the cave.
Below is the text of the notice of deficiency sent to LG&E last November:
The Kentucky Division of Waste Management (DWM), Solid Waste Branch has started review of your application for a Special Waste Landfill at the Trimble County Generating Station, received on May 6, 2011. DWM has found your application to be deficient in the following respect:
1. During the public meeting on October 6, 2011, DWM was informed about the presence of a cave in the proposed disposal fill area. The cave’s location was confirmed by DWM personnel during a site visit on November 15, 2011. A review of historic files produced a November 1979 hydrogeologic investigation document (available upon request) identifying the cave as Wentworth Cave. Pursuant to the Kentucky Cave Protection Act (KRS 433.871 – 433.885), it is unlawful to remove, kill, harm, or otherwise disturb any naturally occurring organism found within any cave. In accordance with 401 KAR 45:030 Sections 3 and 4, DWM is unable to issue a permit inconsistent with state law.
In order for review of your application to continue, you must modify it to eliminate the deficiency noted above and verify compliance with all sections of the Kentucky Cave Protection Act. Revisions must be accompanied by an updated certification statement and correspondence describing all changes. Include revised copies for insertion into the originally submitted document. All correspondence related to this permitting action should reference Agency Interest No. 4054 and Activity ID No. APE20110002. A response to this NOD is to be submitted to this office by May 31, 2012…
*** UPDATE ***
Chip Keeling from LG&E sent LEO the following information this afternoon:
- Upon receiving the Notice of Deficiency (NOD) from the Kentucky Department of Waste Management concerning the “cave” issue at the site of the proposed Trimble County Station landfill project, we hired an outside consultant to perform both a thorough reconnaissance of the entire ravine area and a biological assessment of any cave-like features found within the ravine.
- A total of six cave-like features were identified and investigated in more detail. Our consultant’s report states that none of the features fall within the regulation cited in the NOD. In addition, the biological assessment did not find any cave-dependant life forms that would be disturbed by our proposed landfill.
- The preliminary data has been shared with Kentucky Department of Waste Management.
We have not yet filed a formal response.
We anticipate submitting a formal response in the next several days.
…there are no actual caves and none of the features are considered “caves” as defined in the cited rules.
The cave protection rules do not have a formal mitigation program comparable to that available for wetlands. But the cave protection rules also do not include an absolute prohibition on eliminating a cave. They require permission of the land owner, which in this case is LG&E.
We have concluded that the cave protection rules do not apply to these particular features. We do not expect any impact on our plans.