Did You Live In The Ohio Valley From 1991 To 2013? You’ve Likely Been Exposed To PFOA Monday, Jun 26 2017 

A new study has found that people who lived in the Ohio River Valley between 1991 and 2013 have higher levels of a chemical called PFOA in their bloodstream than the national average.

PFOA, also called C-8, is a toxic chemical that was used to make products including non-stick cookware for decades. Its impact on health is the subject of ongoing study; even small amounts are thought to cause larger body mass index in adults, negative responses to vaccines and smaller birth weight in babies.

PFOA was manufactured, among other places, at the DuPont plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia. That plant no longer uses PFOA, and as a result of a class action lawsuit and settlement, scientists found links between several types of cancers and PFOA exposure.

But the community surrounding the DuPont plant wasn’t the only one exposed to the chemical. It was discharged into the Ohio River for years, and numerous communities — including Louisville — get drinking water from the river.

Importantly, the study is looking backward, not forward.

“There really is no concern for drinking water today,” said University of Cincinnati professor and study co-author Susan Pinney.

Now that PFOA is known to be a problem, many water treatment plants use granular activated carbon, which filters PFOAs. The water is also routinely tested for the chemical.

Monthly Testing In Louisville

In Louisville, Louisville Water Company spokeswoman Kelley Dearing Smith said the company tests monthly for PFOAs and PFOS, a related chemical.

There’s no federal standard for the chemicals, but there’s a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion. Based on the past year and a half of data, the average amount of the chemicals found in the water company’s Crescent Hill Plant is 7 parts per trillion; for the B.E. Payne plant, it’s 9.5 parts per trillion.

Neither of the company’s plants use granular activated carbon; Dearing Smith said so far, it’s not been necessary.

“Our scientists don’t see this as a public health concern right now, based on the levels we’re seeing,” Dearing Smith said. “This is one of those things where even advanced treatment technology doesn’t entirely wipe out the threat. The best treatment options right now for PFOA would really be to change where you’re getting your water from, if you had really high levels.”

While it’s not a current concern, people who lived in Ohio Valley for the past few decades have likely been exposed to the chemical.

Using blood samples from people who lived along the Ohio River in the 1990s and early 2000s — mostly in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, but also in Louisville; Portsmouth, Ohio; and Huntington, West Virginia — researchers found levels of PFOA higher than the national average.

“And between that and being able to associate it with the body of water they got their drinking water from, we were able to say pretty conclusively that drinking water from the Ohio River and the Ohio River aquifer is a major source of exposure to PFOA,” said study lead author and University of Cincinnati graduate student Robert Herrick.

Implications For Future Health

The study found the most important factor that dictated how much PFOA was in a person’s bloodstream wasn’t how close they lived to the places that manufactured the chemical.

“Levels in the river itself decrease as you go downriver, but levels in people don’t necessarily decrease as you go downriver,” Herrick said. “The type of water treatment has a very big effect.”

Granular activated carbon is the most effective way to remove PFOA from drinking water. Cincinnati’s water system installed a system in 1992, while across the river, Northern Kentucky’s waterworks didn’t install one until 2012.

And while the amount of PFOA in the river would be similar at both sites, Herrick said people who got their drinking water from the Cincinnati water system had lower levels of the chemical in their blood than their Kentucky neighbors.

So, what does this all mean? Herrick and Pinney said understanding this historical data will help researchers in the future figure out what, if any, health effects can be linked to long-term PFOA exposure.

PFOA has pretty long half-life. Once it gets in your bloodstream, it takes two to four years for half of it to disappear. This means it sticks around for a very long time. Previous studies have linked high PFOA concentrations to a variety of conditions, like a larger body mass index in adults, a poor reaction to vaccines and a smaller birth weight for babies exposed in utero.

But Pinney said so far, there’s nothing conclusive. That’s where this study might help shed some light.

“We’re not saying people need to be very concerned about what they’re drinking today,” she said. “This is a historical study, but the importance of it is as we look toward the future, if we see some health effects we now know better that the exposure went back further and was actually greater in the early 1990s.”

Sorry: Your LG&E Bill Is About To Go Up. Here’s How Much Thursday, Jun 22 2017 

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will allow Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities to raise their utility rates, but not as much as was agreed to in a settlement in April.

The order issued today will raise a typical LG&E customer’s electric bill by about $6.42 a month. The bill for a typical LG&E gas customer will increase by about $6.98. This is slightly less than was agreed to in the settlement, and nearly $5 a month less than LG&E had initially requested.

KU customers will see their bills increase by $3.85 a month, rather than the $7.16 the utility had initially proposed.

The PSC also reduced the return on investment LG&E and KU’s shareholders are guaranteed — from 9.75 percent to 9.70 percent — and isn’t allowing the utility to recover costs for some employee retirement savings contributions from ratepayers.

One of the most controversial provisions of LG&E’s initial proposal was the way the utility proposed to raise customers’ rates: not by changing the rate people pay for electricity and gas, but by changing the basic service charge. The service charge is the flat rate that all customers pay, regardless of usage. Right now, for customers who use both electric and gas the charge is $24.25 a month, before the lights or heat go on. The utility wanted to raise that to $46.00 a month, while also slightly reducing the usage charges.

Critics fought that plan, saying it would disproportionately hurt low-income customers, and disincentivize customer investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The new plan which LG&E and intervenors agreed to in the settlement, and remains virtually unchanged in the PSC’s orders, includes a much smaller increase in the basic service charge. Now, customers will pay $28.60 a month in charges, though the rates paid for electricity and gas will increase slightly from current rates.

“While we are still reviewing the details of the order, the ruling gives us the ability to enhance our reliability and continue providing safe and reliable service to our customers while mostly meeting the needs of the parties to this case,” said LG&E and KU chief financial officer Kent Blake in an emailed news release.

A number of parties intervened in the case, including Louisville Metro Government, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office, the Sierra Club, the Metropolitan Housing Coalition and Kroger.

In a separate news release, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell praised the PSC order. He represented Louisville Metro Government in the case.

“The Public Service Commission upheld nearly every provision of the agreement that Louisville Metro Government and the other interveners reached with LG&E,” O’Connell said. “The PSC commissioners have stated this revised settlement represents rates that are fair, just and reasonable for customers. I hope that LG&E will honor the PSC’s decision.”

This story has been updated.

U of L Suspends Program Designed To Make School More Energy Efficient Tuesday, Jun 20 2017 

In a move to be more fiscally-conservative, the University of Louisville is suspending a contract designed to make the school’s facilities more energy efficient.

The news comes only weeks after U of L touted the progress it’s made reducing the university’s greenhouse gas emissions — progress which was bolstered by the millions of dollars spent upgrading lighting, insulation and mechanical systems on the school’s three campuses.

So far, the university has spent more than $51 million on the first three phases of the program, which officials estimate have reduced the school’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 46,000 tons. That’s the equivalent of removing 7,690 cars from the road.

“Our first goal of the plan was to reduce the university’s carbon footprint by upgrading building systems and lighting and energy-consuming operations,” said U of L Physical Plant Assistant Director George Kirwan.

But only three phases of the plan are finished, and progress on a proposed fourth phase is on a permanent hold.

U of L spokeswoman Cindy Hess said the school hopes to be able to reactivate the contract in the future.

“The university does not want to take on any additional long-term debt at this time,” she wrote in an email. “This is not a direct result of budget cuts, but rather a move toward taking a more conservative financial position.”

The fourth phase wasn’t fully planned out, but potential projects under consideration included expanding the campus automation network and replacing more traditional lights with LED bulbs.

Though all the phases of U of L’s performance contract with Siemens have cost millions of dollars, the company guarantees a certain amount of money in energy savings each year that’s projected to eventually pay for the improvements.

In a 2016 greenhouse gas report, the university estimated the first two phases alone would reduce its utility bill by more than $12,000 a day. U of L’s guaranteed return on investment for each phase ranged from 3.6 percent to nearly 14 percent.

Kirwan said with an interim president in place, it made sense to wait on making any other large financial decisions.

“Until the administration is a little more permanent,” he said, and the staff can take the pulse of the new president to make sure he or she agrees with the energy efficient investments the school is considering.

Other U of L sustainability programs also got the ax last month due to budget cuts.

A planned faculty position to serve as the director of the school’s new Interdisciplinary Masters in Sustainability has been put on hold, valued at about $120,000.

Also nixed is the vast majority of the money earmarked to help the university implement its 2010 Climate Action Plan.

U of L has spent about $182,000 on this each year, and about $145,000 of that money has gone to the Earn-A-Bike program. The program aims to cut the carbon emissions from students who commute via car, and incentivizes students to give up parking passes in exchange for bicycle vouchers.

U of L set an ambitious goal in that Climate Action Plan: climate neutrality by 2050. The recent greenhouse gas analysis called for more, not less action to help the school meet that goal.

“We are well on our way, but we need to step up our efforts and accelerate progress to achieve that goal,” the report said. “Current rates of reduction will not get us there by 2050, and failure to do so is dangerous for the institution and our planetary future.”

And with the cuts to climate programs and the suspension of the Siemens contract, it’ll be more difficult than before for U of L to meet those lofty goals.

Metro Council Delays Decision On Sewer Rate Hike Monday, Jun 19 2017 

A Louisville Metro Council committee has delayed a decision on an ordinance that would raise sewer rates by 20 percent, or about $10.49 each month for the average ratepayer.

The measure wasn’t brought to a vote during a budget committee meeting Monday afternoon, but an additional piece of legislation filed earlier in the day gave council members the option of essentially approving a smaller rate increase.

The Metropolitan Sewer District board requires Metro Council approval for any rate increases larger than 6.9 percent; the new proposal would give the board the ability to raise rates up to 10 percent annually for the next four years without legislative approval.

At the committee meeting, MSD Executive Director Tony Parrott made his case for the 20 percent rate increase, saying it’s necessary to update crumbling sewer and flood protection systems.

“Decades ago the system was adequate, but as our city has grown and as the assets have gotten older, we have been strained in terms of keeping the system in working order,” he said. “We have tried in recent years to stretch our dollars, to make sure we can keep them operational. We’ve been using sort of a Band-Aid approach, if you will, to do that, and to be able to make sure we could keep a level of service.”

The agency has laid out a 20-year plan to fix the problems in a $4.3 billion Critical Repair and Reinvestment Plan. That plan calls for a large initial rate increase, followed by smaller subsequent increases.

These investments are different from the federal consent decree to reduce sewer overflows into the Ohio River. MSD has spent more than $400 million so far on those projects and is projected to spend another $500 million by 2024.

Parrott’s testimony drew scorn from Councilwoman Mary Woolridge, who said she couldn’t believe any of her colleagues would support such a move.

“‘The sky is falling, the sky is falling! We’re going to be another [Hurricane] Katrina, we must have a 20 percent increase,’” Woolridge said, parodying Parrott. “I disagree with him. I think it is absolutely outrageous for us to even entertain a motion for a 20 percent rate increase.”

Last year, in proposing an identical rate increase, MSD encountered similar opposition. The effort failed in 2016; this year, MSD officials have spent months making their case for the rate increase, holding more than 40 meetings with various community groups and industry representatives. Parrott said by and large, he found community members understand the challenges the district is facing, and support the decision to begin working to fix them.

But, perhaps in a nod to the uphill battle of getting council approval for the 20 percent rate hike, an alternative plan was proposed earlier Monday. That ordinance would change the section of Louisville’s code that restricts the MSD board from raising sewer rates more than 6.9 percent annually. Instead, it would allow rate increases of up to 10 percent without Metro Council approval for the next four years.

As Metro Council members were preparing to meet to discuss the subject, Republican state Rep. Kevin Bratcher announced he was considering filing legislation to move MSD under control of the Kentucky Public Service Commission.

Any discussion about a sewer rate increase was tabled until July 13.

Nuclear Option: Officials Hope Old Facility Can Fuel Growth Friday, Jun 16 2017 

Paducah, Kentucky, is home to USEC, a Department of Energy uranium enrichment facility that operated for 50 years until being decommissioned in 2013. Just across the Ohio River lies the Honeywell corporation’s Metropolis Works, the nation’s only uranium conversion plant.

Former State Sen. Bob Leeper thought it made sense to build on that existing capacity. So he introduced a bill to end the state’s decades-old moratorium on nuclear power. That was 10 years ago.

“People weren’t sure what they wanted to do with this bill,” Leeper said at a ceremonial signing event for a law named the Leeper Act in his honor. “They did the right thing in my opinion.”

Nicole Erwin | Ohio Valley ReSource

Bob Leeper speaks as KY Gov. Matt Bevin prepares to sign his decade-old bill.

It was up to his successor, Sen. Danny Carroll, to push the Leeper Act over the finish line. Today, however, the energy marketplace is dramatically different than it was when Leeper first introduced his bill. Cheap natural gas and clean renewable sources attract utility industry investment and the U.S. nuclear market is moribund. But Carroll said he’s not giving up on nuclear power’s prospects.

“We are ideally suited, if it’s research, if it’s manufacturing, if it’s actually having a nuclear reactor here, our people are used to that,” he said. “And we are primed for that and hopefully someday we will see that come to fruition.”

Leeper, Carroll, and other industry boosters hope the aging and contaminated nuclear facility in Paducah might someday help U.S. nuclear energy and the regional economy get back some of its glow.

‘Booming’ Export

Coal has long been king in the Ohio Valley, but the region is also home to an established and globally connected nuclear industry. The area has no nuclear power plants but Paducah has long been a hub for trucking, shipping and temporarily storing fissile materials used to power a global nuclear market.

Materials that help fuel reactors in Europe and Russia travel via Paducah.

For example, data from the WISER Trade site, maintained by the World Institute for Strategic Economic Research, show that 66 percent of all uranium-related products the U.S. shipped to Russia’s enrichment facilities last year were exported via Kentucky.

Alexandra Kanik | wfpl.org

Kentucky’s Role in Uranium

TAM International, a Canadian freight forwarding company, holds the U.S. export license on those materials. The company moved its U.S. headquarters to Paducah two years ago. 

“What Tam usually deals with is what we call the front end of the fuel cycle,” explained Steve Hansen, vice president of regulatory compliance for TAM. Hansen said the company is licensed to transport UF6, or uranium hexafluoride.

“That’s basically taking it from the mine or the mill to the fuel fabricator.”

TAM takes materials from the nearby Honeywell facility, where raw uranium is converted to nuclear fuel precursor. The material is then ready to be shipped to one of TAM’s clients, usually overseas. Hansen said while the U.S. market is stagnant, the export market is growing.

“If you start looking at other countries, how much material China is importing, how much material India is importing,” he said, “those places are actually a boom in nuclear.”

Uranium ‘Gold Mine’

The USEC facility in Paducah, originally known as the DOE’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, was long an important source of employment for the area. More recently, however, it’s the source of concern about contamination and the scene of a massive and costly cleanup.  

U.S. Dept. of Energy

Depleted uranium stored at the now-idled Dept. of Energy facility at Paducah.

TAM’s decision to relocate to the region gives hope to industry boosters that the now-idled facility might once again generate jobs.

Other companies have expressed interest in the region, including General Electric and a company Bill Gates owns called Terra Power.   

“Terra power claims that there is enough material in Paducah today to fuel this entire country for in excess of 700 years,” Carroll said.

That material Carroll referenced is the depleted uranium now housed in special storage containers at USEC. Terra power owns technology to turn it into useful fuel. Last year the DOE announced an agreement to sell depleted uranium from the Paducah facility and a similar site in Portsmouth, Ohio, so that GE might construct a cutting edge laser enrichment facility.

Supporters like Leeper and Carroll hope that could mean the area is sitting on a gold mine of spent uranium.   

WKU Public Radio reporter Rhonda Miller contributed to this story.

PHOTOS: Using Wearable Art To Increase Environmental Awareness Monday, Jun 12 2017 

The air quality in Louisville on Monday was predicted to be moderate. But a short rain shower cancelled a planned demonstration of a wearable piece of art that was meant to show how pollution can change from block to block.

Dominique Paul’s planned “Air Walk” in downtown Louisville was meant to showcase her art. Paul’s light-up dress is programmed to take data and change colors accordingly. And for her walk in Louisville, she hoped to measure air quality and show how it changes depending on location.

Paul’s dress specifically measures particulate matter, which has been linked to a number of health problems. The walk planned to stop at bus stops, Fourth Street Live, and the convention center construction site to let her wearable art show what’s in the air city residents breathe. Unexpected rain showers ultimately prevented the walk from taking place, but nearly two dozen students and parents still gathered to talk with Paul about her dress and discuss the specific environmental issues facing Louisville.

Paul is an artist-in-residence with Louisville’s Ideas xLab, and her walk was sponsored by the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil.

Research Highlights New Dangerous Elements Of Traffic Exhaust Thursday, Jun 8 2017 

The health effects of living near highways are well-documented. But new research suggests there’s a particular element of vehicle exhaust that may be the most harmful to human health.

Doug Brugge is a professor at the Tufts University School of Medicine. For the past few years, Brugge’s Community Assessment of Freeway Exposure and Health Study has tested pollution — focusing on the minuscule ultrafine particles — in and around Boston near highways. He’s found that increased exposure to these particles is correlated with several cardiovascular diseases.

Brugge was in Louisville earlier this week for a lecture sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Regional Transportation. I met him in downtown near one of the city’s many interstate highways. Listen to our conversation in the player above.

Why look specifically at ultrafine particles?

“We thought they were a good candidate for being a source of health effects. Ultrafine particles are elevated right near heavy traffic, they tend to drop off pretty rapidly with distance, so that would explain why people who are closer would have more effect. So we did very extensive research to figure out what people’s exposures were, assigned them exposures and then, after doing all of that, found that people who had higher exposure to the ultrafine particles also had higher levels of a blood marker that indicates risk of cardiovascular outcomes.”

So, what if you live or work right by a highway?

Brugge says building filtration and ventilation systems do help cut down on the number of ultrafine particles that make their way from the tailpipe to indoor air. But his team has been trying to install systems at some private homes near highways, and have found they aren’t as effective at cutting down on the pollution as he’d hope.

Other than retroactively installing these systems, Brugge said there are legislative measures finding success in some places to keep people from building near roads in the first place.

“I think the kinds of legislation in California and also that we’re introducing in Massachusetts that restricts construction near roadways, requires filtration or good ventilation systems in housing that’s near busy roadways, I think that is another route we could go,” he said.

Absent From Climate Commitment Letter: Louisville’s Top Companies, U of L Wednesday, Jun 7 2017 

In response to President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, cities, states, universities and companies have been publicly affirming their commitment to climate action.

As of Wednesday, about 150 cities and counties, more than 200 colleges and universities and more than a thousand businesses have signed an open letter declaring their continuing support for climate action to meet the goals the U.S. agreed to in the Paris Accord. Louisville is one of those cities — Mayor Greg Fischer signed the letter last week.

The letter is a project of a number of environmental non-profits and sustainability-minded business groups. It reads, in part:

“In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.

“In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.”

But absent from the list (so far) are any of the city’s large, publicly traded companies and the University of Louisville.

U of L

Despite making strides over the past few years in significantly cutting greenhouse gas emissions, investments in sustainability programs and cutting-edge research into alternative fuels, university spokesman John Karman said there aren’t any plans to sign the letter.

“At this point, we have not made plans to sign the letter,” Karman wrote in an email.

The only university or college in Kentucky that’s a signatory so far is Berea College.

The Companies

Together, Louisville’s 10 largest publicly traded companies bring in nearly $86 billion annually. They include names you probably know — Humana, Yum! Brands, Papa John’s and Churchill Downs — and ones you probably don’t — Almost Family Inc. and Turning Point Brands.

Of those 10 companies, most didn’t respond to repeated messages inquiring whether their companies were likely to sign the letter. But many of these companies have already listed climate change (or the extreme weather events which scientists link to climate change) as risk factors from their businesses.

Because all of these companies are publicly traded on the U.S. Stock Exchange, they’re required to file annual reports for investors. Those reports include any risk factors that could potentially affect the company’s bottom line, from government regulations to decreased demand to labor shortages.

And despite their unwillingness to call a reporter back to talk about climate change, many of the companies recognize that climate change — or regulations prompted by climate change — could have an effect on their bottom lines.

Here’s what some of those Securities and Exchange Commission filings had to say:

Kindred

Kindred Healthcare doesn’t make any mention of climate change in its 2017 annual report. But back in 2016, the company considered it a big enough risk to spend a paragraph on the subject:

“Climate change could have a potential economic impact on us and climate change mitigation programs and regulations could increase our costs. Energy costs could be higher as a result of climate change regulations. Our costs could increase if utility companies pass on their costs, such as those associated with carbon taxes, emission cap and trade programs, or renewable portfolio standards. In addition, climate change may increase the frequency or intensity of natural disasters. As such, we cannot assure you that climate change will not adversely impact our business, financial position, results of operations and liquidity.”

Brown-Forman

Liquor producer Brown-Forman relies on raw materials to produce its beverages. As such, the company explicitly sees climate change as a risk factor that could affect production in the future. From the company’s 2017 SEC annual report:

“Weather, the effects of climate change, diseases, and other agricultural uncertainties that affect the mortality, health, yield, quality, or price of the various raw materials used in our products also present risks for our business, including in some cases potential impairment in the recorded value of our inventory. Changes in weather patterns or intensity can disrupt our supply chain as well, which may affect production operations, insurance costs and coverage, as well as the timely delivery of our products to customers.

“Water is one of the major components of our products, so the quality and quantity of available water is important to our ability to operate our business. If droughts become more common or severe, or if our water supply were interrupted for other reasons, high-quality water could become scarce in some key production regions for our products, including Tennessee, Kentucky, California, Finland, Canada, and Mexico.”

In an emailed statement, Brown-Forman spokesman Phil Lynch touted the company’s sustainability work.

“We have set an aggressive target to reduce absolute B-F greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2023 (using a 2012 baseline),” he wrote. “Taking into account our anticipated business growth, this decrease in our overall carbon footprint represents approximately 40% versus business as usual. We believe this commitment is more important than taking sides in a noisy political debate.”

Papa John’s

Papa John’s — the pizza company that’s owned by prominent Republican donor John Schnatter — also warns investors that climate change could hurt the company’s ability to source its ingredients.

“Our Company-owned and franchised restaurants could also be harmed by a prolonged disruption in the supply of products from or to our QC Centers due to weather, climate change, natural disasters, crop disease, food safety incidents, labor dispute or interruption of service by carriers. In particular, adverse weather or crop disease affecting the California tomato crop could disrupt the supply of pizza sauce to our and our franchisees’ restaurants. Insolvency of key suppliers could also cause similar business interruptions and negatively impact our business.”

Of the remaining seven companies, several avoided explicitly mentioning climate change, but acknowledged extreme weather events could wreck havoc with their business models.

Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse spokesman Travis Doster is the only person who called back to talk about the issue. He said the company was not planning on signing any kind of climate change action commitment.

“We don’t think anybody really looks at Texas Roadhouse and says ‘Hey, I wonder what they think about this issue or that issue,’” Doster said. “We’re focused on legendary food, legendary service, focus on what we can control. We just don’t presume to think that people want us spouting off our views on certain things, because we’re made up of a lot of individuals and Texas Roadhouse doesn’t have these beliefs that we’re going out and pushing to other people.”

Despite that, Texas Roadhouse does warn its investors that extreme weather — which in some cases, scientists have linked to climate change — could hurt the company’s business.

From the SEC annual report:

“Our ability to open new restaurants will also depend on numerous other factors, some of which are beyond our control, including, but not limited to, the following… the impact of inclement weather, natural disasters and other calamities.”

Churchill Downs

Gambling and gaming giant Churchill Downs also acknowledged the havoc weather could wreak on its moneymaking endeavors.

“A disruption or failure in our systems or operations in the event of a major earthquake, weather event, cyber-attack, terrorist attack or other catastrophic event could interrupt our operations, damage our properties and reduce the number of customers who visit our facilities in the affected areas. Flooding, blizzards, windstorms, earthquakes or hurricanes could adversely affect our locations.”

Almost Family, Inc.

Almost Family is a home health care nursing services company that’s based in Louisville. According to its SEC filings, it has a number of facilities on the coast, which could be affected by natural disasters.

“A substantial number of our agencies are located in Florida or coastal regions in the northeast, increasing our exposure to hurricanes and other natural disasters.  The occurrence of natural disasters in the markets in which we operate could not only affect the day-to-day operations of our agencies but also could disrupt our relationships with patients, employees and referral sources located in the affected areas.”

The remaining companies in the top 10 — Humana, Yum Brands, PharMerica and Turning Point Brands — make no mention of weather or climate change as risk factors.

This post has been updated.

U of L’s Justin Mog Wins Annual Joan Riehm Environmental Award Monday, Jun 5 2017 

Justin Mog is this year’s recipient of the Joan Riehm Memorial Environmental Leadership Award. The award is presented annually by the Partnership for a Green City to public service employees, volunteers or students who work to make the city more sustainable.

Mog is the Assistant to the Provost for Sustainability Initiatives at the University of Louisville. He’s been in the position since 2009, and during that time has led the university’s efforts to shrink its carbon footprint.

These efforts have had an impact at U of L, said Interim Provost Dale Billingsly. Besides joking that Mog can “often be seen checking dumpsters for recyclables and pulling them out to place them in the recycling stream,” he said the results of a recent analysis really quantify the effect Mog’s work has had.

“Initiatives he has promoted have resulted in an overall greenhouse gas emissions reduction of almost 46,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalents, a reduction of more than 18 percent since 2008,” Billingsley said. “That is the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road or recycling almost 13,000 tons of waste.”

In his remarks, Mayor Greg Fischer said local sustainability initiatives like those championed by Mog are more important than ever. He cited President Donald Trump’s rejection last week of the Paris Climate Accord, and his decision to sign a letter with other U.S. mayors stating his support.

“When you think about pitting our economy against our environment as was portrayed, I mean, it’s just a false choice,” Fischer said. “In Louisville, we will continue to move forward to make this a healthier and more sustainable community, regardless of what happens at other levels of government. If others won’t lead on sustainability, we will.”

Fischer said these green efforts in Louisville do double duty — both helping the environment and saving taxpayer money.

Besides focusing on sustainability as part of his job, Mog works to model a sustainable lifestyle in his personal life, too. He doesn’t own a car or eat meat, and his home is powered by solar energy.

As he accepted the award, Mog said even though the challenges in addressing subjects like climate change or sustainability are large, the local solutions are many.

“We can spend our whole morning talking about all the horrors and the lack of consensus around climate change at the national level, but that’s not what we need to focus on if we want to make progress,” he said. “I honor all those who are studying the challenges before us, but I also want to emphasize that we have the solutions we need right within our grasp.”

The Partnership for a Green City is a collaborative effort of four of the city’s largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, the University of Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools and Jefferson Community & Technical College.

The award is named after Joan Riehm, who was Louisville’s first female deputy mayor in 1985. She returned to city government in 2002 to help transition after the city-counter merger, and was involved in sustainability issues until her death from pancreatic cancer in 2008.

Previous recipients include former Metro Council members Tom Owen and Tina Ward-Pugh, citizen volunteer Mike Hayman, retired JCPS teacher Darleen Horton, JCTC Business Manager Pamela Dumm, former JCPS Director of Facilities and Environmental Services Michael Mulheirn and former U of L Vice President of Business Affairs Larry Owlsley.

Flip-flops, Mystery Fluids, and Spent Cigarette Lighters Monday, Jun 5 2017 

Each year has a different character to it and for what I do at the Falls of the Ohio, a lot depends upon what I find.  Last year, there was an abundance of plastic bottles in a full spectrum of colors that stood out among the natural driftwood.  This year, we have had a mostly high river due to locally intense rains throughout the Ohio River Valley.  There have been successive waves of wood and plastic that have had me wandering the wrack lines filling my collecting bags and stuffing my computer with images.  The Falls are not a big area, but the dynamic changes that rearrange the riverbank keep it interesting.  This year I have concentrated mostly on formal arrangements on site using flip-flop sandals, plastic soft drink bottles with colored backwash in them, and I have also been astounded by the number of cigarette lighters I have been finding.  Following are a few of the many compositions I have already made this year.Chromatic arrangement in Flip-flops, Falls of the Ohio, Feb, 2017

Made this one on a sunny day in February.  I found all these flip-flops on a single walk along the riverbank which is how I still like to work out here.  I get ideas for projects based on what that day’s walk presents.  Kind of like going to the grocery store and seeing what’s ripe and in season.

Flip-flop arrangement on the sand, Falls of the Ohio, March 2017

Why flip-flops?  First, they are a ubiquitous part of human life around the river and they float and travel great distances to reach the park.  I also like the idea that these sandals are unique to the people who wore them and have their “soul or spirit” imprinted on them.  They come in a variety of colors and sizes and can be as variable as people.  There is also that saying about not understanding others until you can stand in their shoes.

Flip-flop ring, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

A work from April of this year made with flip-flops.  Some colors seem to be harder to find than others particularly a true red or yellow.  Once in a while, I will also pick up and use the sole of some other kind of foot ware if I think it will come in “handy”.

Cottonwood Tree Composition, late May 2017, Falls of the Ohio

My latest flip-flop composition from late May.  Sited in the western section of the park, this piece is situated by a favorite cottonwood tree that I have shown in posts many times before.  It uniquely has a space under the roots that you can stand under.  It is a favorite place for locals to party.  Now for the next part of this post…”Mystery Fluids”.

Found soft drink and sport drink bottles with partial contents, Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Usually found floating in rivers and other bodies of water are these partially consumed sport and soft drinks capped and in their bottles.  At the Falls of the Ohio I find them intermixed with the driftwood and everything else too.  Often, it is the bottom of the bottle that is sticking up from the wood.  I think being starved for color is why I gravitated towards this common element of our waste stream.  When the light hits these bottles just right…the colors can be very jewel-like and attractive.  Here are a few of the projects and images I made with them this year.

Found bottles and contents with the skyline of Louisville, Feb. 2017

Found bottles and contents, western section of the Falls of the Ohio, April 2017

Found bottle composition with contents, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I have photographed these bottles in a variety of contexts and combinations over the year.  Their contents are amazingly well-preserved and I have never found one that had mold growing in it.  It could be that conditions have rendered these bottles sterile?  Did they get too hot, too cold, not enough oxygen?  Certainly, there is plenty of sugar, electrolytes, and preservatives in them.  On site, I usually have arranged them on the back of stranded logs or boards that have floated in here and then I take my pictures and walk away.  At my main outdoor studio…I have now been caching some of these bottles and flip-flops too for later in the year when the water level is low.  Now for the final category….found cigarette lighters.

Found cigarette lighters by various manufacturers, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

Took this photograph a few days a go and represents my record for found cigarette lighters in one day out at the Falls of the Ohio.  I think there are 103 lighters here all gleaned from the driftwood.  I have always known that cigarette lighters are out here, but not until now have I concentrated on them.  When you begin looking for them, they can be everywhere up and down the riverbank and intermixed with the driftwood.  Once upon a time, the ability to create fire was a special and important skill.  It’s more than the climate that is changing.  Before I show you what I made with a hundred lighters, here are some earlier attempts.

BIC lighter color line, found cigarette lighters from the Falls of the Ohio, 2017

This found lighter composition is unique in that only “Bic” brand lighters were used.  The are arranged on the back of a log.  I still like referencing light through color.  The irony of our dependence on fossil fuels to make things like plastic and energy is that it comes from sequestered carbon created from sunlight by plants living millions of years a go.  Now we need to just look up in the sky to see that same source of energy in the here and now.

88 Cigarette Lighter Oval, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

I think from April?, but definitely the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  Created this oval from 88 found lighters.  The river was still very high and this arrangement is up against the riverbank.

Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

68 Found Lighter Circle, Falls of the Ohio, 2017

Lighter circle made with 68 found cigarette lighters.   You can see the marks my fingers made in the sand adjusting the lighters to expand the circle.

Nearly forgot about this one!  “Stump Star” composed of 48 found lighters, a yellow reflector, and of course…a stump.  Made under the willow trees, the light playing through the tree canopy made this piece hard to photograph.  It just occurred to me that I have no idea where butane comes from?  All of these once stored compressed butane.  As these physical objects age and are exposed to the elements, their metal components are the first to corrode and rust away.

Another day and visit to the river.  I try to maximize each opportunity out here by making as many site specific pieces from the various materials I encounter.  Here’s a quick piece with my the toes of my shoes poking in for good measure.  I call this one “Keep Calm” because there’s one lighter that says that…or “From Clear to Blue” because if you look closely you can see between the white and blue lighters is one clear one.  So far, that’s the only one like that I’ve seen out here.  Okay, one more to end with and it’s the one with over a hundred lighters.  I made another composition with these lighters, but decided to try a more open design and it turned out better than the first.Double-spiral Cigarette Lighter Composition, Falls of the Ohio, June 2017

When given the chance to go to the river or write about past experiences…I will opt for the river, unless the weather is bad and it has already rained hard today.  I’m staying busy and engaged with art all around me which has had a calming effect on me considering all the political decisions people are making regarding the health of the environment and everything else too.  If you are interested in some of what’s in the Ohio River and other rivers in this country…then I’m your blog.  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Double Spiral found cigarette lighter composition at the Falls of the Ohio, June 2017


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