The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its final Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) Rule that sets requirements for the disposal of coal combustion residuals (coal ash and synthetic gypsum), from coal-fired power plants.
Through the final rule, the EPA determined:
- Coal-combustion residuals are non-hazardous materials.
- The rule will regulate coal ash ponds and dry special waste landfills.
- Beneficial reuse of coal combustion residuals as an ingredient in concrete, cement, wall board, and other materials and as fill is safe and allowed.
- The rule will focus on storage facilities’ locations, safety practices, groundwater protection standards and structural requirements.
- Specific compliance data and information must be posted to a public website, called the CCR Rule Compliance Data and Information.
The CCR Rule establishes federal design standards for CCR landfills and impoundments in addition to already existing state standards related to CCRs. The CCR Rule requires the internet posting of certain information.
In our CCR Rule Compliance Data and Information section, you can access the company’s plans for compliance and information about each of LG&E and KU’s facilities regulated under the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule.
Improving land and water quality
LG&E and KU got ahead of the curve and are currently on track to fully convert next year to dry storage for coal combustion residuals — eliminating the use of ash ponds and other storage impoundments at our four coal-fired power plants. These projects meet new state water quality standards and the U.S. EPA’s Coal Combustion Residuals Rule.
What are groundwater monitoring reports
Utilities that operate ash ponds and surface impoundments, under the CCR Rule, publish annual documents called groundwater monitoring and corrective action reports. These annual reports contain information and data obtained during the previous calendar year and are published online by the utility.
In compliance with the CCR Rule, utilities have been gathering groundwater quality data around CCR impoundments and their facilities to establish background concentration levels of certain constituents that are naturally occurring in local groundwater.
It’s important to keep in mind the raw data in the reports cannot be relied on to determine whether a CCR impoundment is impacting groundwater. That determination is made through a regimented monitoring phase established by the CCR Rule and following a statistical evaluation of the data and confirmation that certain levels of constituents are higher than what’s naturally occurring for that area. There’s also additional monitoring and testing done to make sure the increased results were not caused by laboratory error or by a source other than the CCR impoundment.
- If the data indicates certain constituent levels near a CCR impoundment are higher than the naturally-occurring levels, the next stage in the process is to initiate “assessment monitoring” to determine whether there is an impact on groundwater quality. The substances evaluated in assessment monitoring are those considered to be constituents of concern.
- During assessment monitoring, additional samples are taken to determine whether the CCR impoundment may be exceeding groundwater protection standards, which are established to protect human health and the environment.
- These samples will then be analyzed using statistical methods to determine whether any constituents of concern are detected at a statistically significant level (SSL) over the established groundwater protection standards.
The data in these groundwater monitoring reports are only from the initial stages of groundwater monitoring under the CCR Rule. Due to the close proximity of the groundwater monitoring wells to the CCR impoundments, the monitoring results should not be interpreted to mean the groundwater poses a health risk. That determination is made following a regimented, statistical evaluation of a wider scope of groundwater data to determine whether any risk exists. If utilities determine constituent levels exceed the tightened standards under the CCR Rule, any groundwater impacts will be addressed.