Safety Improvements at Both Water Treatment Plants

Safety Improvements at Both Water Treatment Plants
October 26, 2015

After more than 100 years, Louisville Water Company no longer stores extremely hazardous substances at its water treatment plants.  It’s a huge safety improvement for both Louisville Water’s employees and the community.

The company uses chloramine to disinfect the drinking water and for generations this substance was made using pressurized liquid chlorine and anhydrous ammonia, both of which are on the EPA’s Extremely Hazardous Substance list.  Now, Louisville Water produces its own supply of a chlorine in the form of a dilute sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach) and has switched from using anhydrous ammonia to aqueous ammonia – both are less hazardous forms and much safer to use. 

Louisville Water operates two treatment facilities:  the Crescent Hill Plant (the largest in Kentucky) and the B.E. Payne Plant in Prospect.  This fall, Louisville Water completed transitioning to the aqueous ammonia at both plants.  On-site chlorine generation facilities were completed in 2011 at Crescent Hill and 2014 at the B.E. Payne Plant. Chlorine generation produces a dilute sodium hypochlorite solution (bleach) from salt, water and electricity and Louisville Water produces only what it needs each day for water treatment.  Prior to this process, Louisville Water stored pressurized liquid chlorine on site.

From a safety aspect, the projects all but eliminate a scenario where a chemical release would require Louisville Water and its neighbors to shelter in place or evacuate. Both treatment facilities are surrounded by neighborhoods and businesses.

The projects were funded in Louisville Water’s capital budgets over the past five years and cost $23 million. 

A Long History of Safe Drinking Water

The Center for Disease Controls calls the disinfection and treatment of public water supplies one of the greatest public health achievements in the 20th century.  Louisville’s history of safe drinking water began in 1896 when George Warren Fuller did landmark experiments in filtration at Louisville Water.  His work paved the way for the Crescent Hill plant to open in 1908 and created the filtration process many water providers use today.  

Jersey City, New Jersey was the first to add chlorine to the drinking water supply in 1908. Louisville Water began using chlorine in 1914 at the Crescent Hill Plant and shortly after, reports of typhoid and cholera dramatically declined. The U.S. Government took note of the water quality and in 1917 established camp Zachery Taylor here for soldiers training for World War I.  The government cited the “unexcelled water quality” as one of the reasons for locating the camp in Louisville.


*The photo shows the new onsite chlorine generation technology.