TVA Mulling Fly Ash Disposal Options

The <"">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is trying to determine the best way to dispose of over a billion tons of a fly ash following a spill that devastated hundreds of acres in Eastern Tennessee last month.  According to a report on, representatives from the TVA said yesterday that the main goal of the massive cleanup going on near Kingston, Tennessee is to make whole those residents whose lands were harmed by the spill and to retrieve all the muck that spilled from the retention pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant on Dec. 22.

The TVA said that at least 300 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, making it  larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. The authority now says that  5.4 million cubic yards of potentially toxic fly ash was released from a retention pond. According to the Knoxville News, that’s triple the estimate of  1.7 million cubic yards the TVA first released. The fly ash spill damaged  15 homes. All the residents were  evacuated, but at least three homes were deemed uninhabitable.

At a standing-room-only meeting in Kingston yesterday, TVA CEO Tom Kilgore said that so far, the authority is spending $1 million a day to clean up the spill.  According to knoxnews, Kilgore also said that property owners have filed about 250 damage claims so far.

Several options are under discussion for disposal of the waste, knoxnews said.  These include sending the sludge by rail and barge to Class II landfills near Knoxville and Alabama or converting it into dry storage at the Kingston plant.  Another possible option is blending the gunk with “fibrous materials” to form a solid.  Any of these disposal methods would first need to be approved by the state.

The TVA will need to come up with a comprehensive cleanup and disposal plan soon.  Today, the state of Tennessee issued the TVA an enforcement  order requiring its full cooperation in assessing the mishap and developing a corrective action plan soon to “ensure safe operations in the future.” The detailed corrective action plan for cleanup must be submitted within 45 days.

The order also requires the  TVA to submit to the state within 20 days all relevant documents that may explain why the spill occurred and any warnings about the dangers that existed leading up to the disaster. Finally, the order also says the TVA will reimburse the state for overseeing the cleanup.

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