From The Courier-Journal:

An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis study has found mercury contamination in soil downwind from a coal-fired power plant in Indianapolis, supporting the notion of localized mercury hot spots.

The research examined soil near several plants across Central Indiana but zeroed in on an Indianapolis Power & Light plant on the city’s southwest side. That’s where scientists mapped a plume of soil contamination likely from the plant, which is the city’s largest source of mercury emissions.

“Mercury from coal-fired power plants has been found in the ice at the north and the south poles, so the fact that these noxious emissions are swept far away to other areas or even continents, with global environmental impact, is well known,” said lead author Gabriel M. Filippelli, an IUPUI professor of earth sciences.

He said the new research is among the first to document mercury’s impact on soils and the environment near specific coal-burning power plants.

He also said the study, published this month in the journal Water, Air & Soil Pollution, has important implications for other cities with coal-fired power plants, including the Louisville metro area, which has three.

“I would suspect you might have the same situation that we have here in Indianapolis,” he said of Louisville and Southern Indiana.

Louisville Gas & Electric operates the Mill Creek and Cane Run coal-fired plants in southwestern and western Louisville. Duke Energy operates the Gallagher plant in New Albany, immediately west of Louisville.

The three together emit more than twice as much mercury annually as the IPL plant, according to the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

All three are also generally upwind from Louisville population centers.

An LG&E spokesman, Chip Keeling, said company officials have not reviewed the study, but still questioned its findings.