TVA Faces Big Fly Ash Spill Clean Up Bill

The December 22 <"">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill is expected to cost the agency hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up, litigation, fines, and regulations reported the Knoxville Biz.

Pond dike walls failed at the Kingston Fossil Plant, dumping 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge into the Emory River and surrounding land, damaging homes, at least three irreparably, said the Knoxville Biz in a prior report.  According to Sustainable Business, that translates into 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge across 400 acres and into the Emory River.

The estimated clean-up costs are about $825 million, said the TVA.  Its President and CEO, Tom Kilgore, told the TVA board that the clean-up alone will run no less than $525 million, with final numbers dependent on issues surrounding the final disposal plan and that current estimates do not take into account “regulatory actions, or litigation, or any fines or penalties that may be assessed,” said TVA in its quarterly filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), reported the Knoxville Biz.  The report also listed a net loss of $305 million for the three months ending December 31 for TVA, which said the Knoxville Biz, TVA attributed to the Fly Ash Spill.

As of the end of last month, TVA spent $31 million on the cleanup.  Kilgore said that while he was unable to provide estimates on how long the full cleanup would take, it would be no less than one year.  Also, when asked if any costs would be passed on to TVA ratepayers, he said that, “The worst-case scenario would be 100 percent,” quoted the Knoxville News.

Meanwhile, reported the Knoxville News, four lawsuits have been filed and notices of intent to file three others have been recorded.  Also, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified TVA that the Fly Ash Spill violated the Clean Water Act.  The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation is also conducting an investigation that could result in fines being levied against TVA, which could also face future regulatory requirements, the filing notes, long-term environmental monitoring. and environmental impact studies.  And, if planned dredging disturbs pollutants—such as PCBs and mercury—that were in the Emory River prior to the Fly Ash Spill, filing notes and additional remediation might also occur.

A Congressional Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing is also underway, said The Tennessean, which noted that the hearing is looking at the structural soundness of coal ash impoundments nationwide and is calling for an oversight bill for federal standards to better ensure landfill/pond integrity in those areas used to dispose of ash from coal-burning power plants.  The hearing is focusing on the emerging Coal Ash Reclamation, Environment, and Safety Act of 2009 (H.R. 493).

Earlier inspections at TVA’s facility found wall failures and called for further analysis.  There was also an earlier “blowout” that dumped water and fly ash on to Swan Pond Road.  And, now, researchers say area residents and the environment are being exposed to some serious and dangerous health and environmental toxins, such as radium and arsenic.  Radium is a Group-A carcinogenic material, according to the EPA; radium exposure can lead to cancer.  Also, arsenic, a toxic metal, can increase the risk of some cancers, skin damage, and circulatory problems.

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