Report of Investigations--KGS


The effects of two coal-ash disposal facilities on ground-water quality at the John Sherman Cooper Power Plant, located in a karst region of south-central Kentucky, were evaluated using dye traces in springs. Springs were used for monitoring rather than wells, because in a karst terrane wells are unlikely to intercept individual conduits.

A closed-out ash pond located over a conduit-flow system discharges to three springs in the upper Salem and Warsaw Formations along Lake Cumberland. Water discharging from these downgradient springs is similar to springs unaffected by ash-disposal facilities and is a calcium-bicarbonate type. No constituent concentrations found in this flow system exceeded maximum contaminant levels (MCL’s) or secondary maximum contaminant levels (SMCL’s) defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

An active ash pond is situated over another conduit-flow system that discharges to springs in the lower St. Louis Limestone. Water discharging from these downgradient springs is intermediate between the calciumbicarbonate type of the unaffected springs and the calcium-sulfate type of the active ash pond. No constituent concentrations found in this flow system exceeded MCL’s or SMCL’s.

A third flow system associated with a coal stockpile adjacent to the plant is delineated by springs in the St. Louis Limestone and the Salem and Warsaw Formations that discharge calcium-sulfate type water. Chromium and cadmium concentrations exceeded MCL’s in at least one sample from this flow system. Iron, manganese, sulfate, and total dissolved solid concentrations exceeded SMCL’s in at least one sample.

The closed-out ash pond appears to have no adverse impact on the water quality, nor does the active ash pond. In general, the coal stockpile has a more adverse impact on ground-water quality in the study area than the ash-disposal facilities.

Publication Date



Series XI

Report Number

Report of Investigations 11

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 1997 by University of Kentucky, Kentucky Geological Survey

Funding Information

We would like to thank the Electric Power Research Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and East Kentucky Power Cooperative for their monetary support of this project; Meg Smath for editing the report; and Mike Murphy for drafting the illustrations.