Action Alert: Tell Kentucky Division of Water that KU needs to cleanup Herrington Lake!

Herrington Lake, the deepest lake in Kentucky, was created by Kentucky Utilities (KU) in 1925 by damming the Dix River. The lake is the source of drinking water for thousands of people in the Lexington/Harrodsburg area as well as a popular destination for recreational uses such as boating, fishing, and swimming.

KU operates E.W. Brown, a 691-megawatt coal-burning power plant located near the lake. The plant’s unlined coal ash pond is leaking into the lake and harming its fish population. The contaminated water leaking into the lake is carrying arsenic, selenium and lead – all toxins left over in the ash after coal is burned. Testing has found that 9 of 10 fish samples collected in Herrington Lake had high levels of selenium. According to KU’s own tests, contamination has also been found in groundwater at the E.W. Brown site.

Iron Stained Bedrock in the drainage leading to the Brown Plant

There is no mystery as to the source of the selenium contamination in Herrington Lake and it needs to stop as soon as possible. Yet, KU’s proposal is to spend time looking for other sources of the contaminants. The coal ash contains high levels of selenium, water in contact with the ash is leaking from the coal ash pond to the lake, and selenium has been found in fish near the plant. It is clear that E.W. Brown’s massive ash ponds, located adjacent to the area where the state collected its measurements, are the primary source of the contamination. And there are other contaminants in the coal ash such as arsenic and lead, that are also very likely reaching the lake.

However, all the state has done is require KU to pay $25,000 in fines and submit a plan for additional monitoring and study, without any new cleanup or action to stop the pollution at its source. KU wouldn’t even need to consider whether to take any action to clean up the coal ash until 2019 at the earliest.

Kentuckians deserve better. Tell the Division of Water that KU’s plan to study the problem allows a known problem to continue. Tell them to require KU to take responsibility and clean up the coal ash mess it has created at Herrington Lake immediately. Comments can be submitted to Pete Goodmann, Division of Water Director, by e-mail to, or by mail to: Division of Water at 300 Sower Blvd, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601 by September 30, 2017.

Please let us know if you have submitted a comment and would like to receive news about other ways you can help by filling out our contact form here and putting Herrington Lake in the comments box. You can also bcc or cc on your comment email to KDOW.

Below is a suggested template for your email or letter:



Agency Interest No. 3148 Agreed Order Case No. DOW-170001

Mr. Goodmann,


[Insert your experience/usage of the lake – explain why the lake is important to you, personally.]


Kentucky Utilities’ plan to spend months trying to determine an alternative source of the pollution impacting Herrington Lake abdicates their responsibility for cleaning up the pollution they produced at their E.W. Brown plant. The Brown plant’s coal ash ponds lie adjacent to the lake and are almost certainly responsible for the selenium, lead and arsenic found in the lake.

KU wants to study the issue until at least 2019, which is unacceptable.  KU needs to take responsibility for the environmental cleanup at Herrington Lake, and that cleanup needs to begin as soon as possible. Please reject KU’s inadequate plan.