EPA will oversee coal ash removal at Tennessee plant

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will oversee the removal of coal ash at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in Roane County, Tenn., where approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled last December. On May 11, under the Superfund law, the EPA and TVA signed an Administrative Order and Agreement on Consent that requires the utility company to reimburse the agency for its oversight costs.

“EPA is bringing to bear its resources and expertise under federal law to work in partnership with the state of Tennessee and local officials to assure a comprehensive cleanup of the TVA coal ash spill, one of the largest and most serious environmental releases in our history,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

The cleanup effort will be “based on sound scientific and ecological principles,” EPA Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg added. He said the project will move as quickly as possible and comply with all federal and state environmental standards. “Protection of public health and safety remains a primary concern, along with the long-term ecological health of the Emory and Clinch Rivers.”

Under the terms of the agreement, TVA’s work will be subject to review and approval by EPA, in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). Once ash removal is complete, the utility company must assess any remaining contamination to determine whether additional action is needed.

Coal ash at the site contains such hazardous substances as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc. The EPA order also requires that the coal-ash disposal meet specific protective disposal standards for landfills, such as synthetic liners, leachate collection systems and groundwater monitoring.

TVA will also provide $50,000 to an eligible community group for contracting with an independent technical advisor.

For additional information about the order and EPA’s response, click here.

In related news, the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice recently released a report that showed that North Carolina tops a list of states with potentially hazardous coal-ash storage ponds that don’t have synthetic liners. North Carolina has 17 such sites, according to the groups, including a pond at Progress Energy’s Skyland coal-fired plant. The groups also claim the Bush administration may have withheld information suggesting high cancer rates for people who live near the landfills and lagoons where coal-ash waste is stored. Click here to see the environmental group’s study and press release.

— Margaret Williams, contributing editor


About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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