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Best Of 2018: Our Year In Environment Reporting


I joined the WFPL News team this February, assuming the mantle previously held by Erica Peterson. I'm just one of a small cadre of reporters, including those with the Ohio Valley Resource, who regularly report on environmental issues in Kentucky. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the waste we leave behind, I've tackled stories about the way people are changing the environment, and the way those impacts affect us.

Here are a few of my favorite environment stories from this year:

Coal Ash Uncovered: Polluted Groundwater Found At 14 Kentucky Sites

The legacy of coal in Kentucky has taken a toll on the environment, scarring mountainsides, polluting rivers and leaving behind mountains of ash, even as we continue to use it as a main source of energy. A WFPL News and Ohio Valley Resource analysis completed in June found contaminated groundwater at 14 Kentucky power plants.

Despite Decades Of Evidence, Kentucky Hasn’t Stopped Plant’s Coal Ash Pollution

At the D.B. Wilson power plant outside of Owensboro, state officials have seen results consistent with coal ash contamination over the last 18 years. Only in the last few months has the state forced D.B. Wilson to clean up the pollution on the surface, but even the latest agreement does not include a plan to treat groundwater at the site.

Climate Change Increasing Flood Risks As Louisville’s Protection Decays

Looking for climate change is a little bit like staring at a plant and trying to watch it grow in real time. It’s difficult to see in the moment, but long term trends indicate Kentucky’s climate is changing. Kentucky can expect to see warmer, wetter weather with more unpredictable periods of droughts, heat waves and heavy storms.

And as the Ohio Valley warms, severe storms will increasingly put at risk Kentucky’s aging flood protection system.

Curious Louisville: What Happens To Your Recycling?

The single most common question we received about the environment this year: What happens to recycling in Louisville?  We met with city officials and contractors to follow your recycling from the curb to the recycling plant. Along the way, we learned what to recycle, where it all goes and how a 2017 Chinese policy impacts recycling in Kentucky.

The Future Of Floyds Fork: Louisville Works To Balance Nature Preservation With Development

As the city grows, residents, developers and city leaders will need to make decisions about how to best preserve Jefferson County’s remaining natural habitat. This story is a look at what that process is like for the area around Floyd’s Fork in southeast Louisville.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.