TVA to End Wet Ash Storage

Following months of controversy since the catastrophic <"">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill, the TVA has finally announced plans to stop storing its coal-fired power plants’ ash in wet landfills, according to the Tennessean, citing an official.

We have long expressed concern over the hazards to people and the environment left in the wake of last year’s spill that dumped a mind-boggling 5.4 million cubic yards—over one billion gallons—of toxic coal sludge into Tennessee’s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding the TVA Kingston plant. Last month, the TVA “significantly” increased the “hazard potential” for some of its ash sites under a self-assessment given to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Associated Press (AP) previously reported.

According to John Kammeyer, vice president of coal combustion products at the TVA, it would take eight years to overhaul ash ponds at six fossil plants, reported the Tennessean. Clean up from the accident could run about $1.2 billion.

The December spill involved a layer of unstable ash sludge—“slimes”—that went undetected, the “construction of retaining walls on top of the ash,” “saturation of the stored ash,” and “pressure exerted by rising stacks,” according to a prior KnoxNews report, citing a consultant’s findings.

TVA engineers who conducted stability analyses on the pond for decades did not detect the six-inch deep slime, noted the consultant. Also, an AECOM report stated the slimes’ “creep failure” and ash liquefaction triggered the spill, said KnoxNews, which explained that internal wall failures occurring over an hour caused the dike blowout that blew 47-foot-high “tsunami of sludge” with ash shooting up over half a mile from the pond’s walls, citing the report. The noxious wave pushed one house from its foundation, destroyed others, annihilated docks, and moved construction equipment, leaving a toxic fiasco in its wake.

Since the accident, attention has been focused on coal ash facility health hazards and emergency response protocols. According to Roane County’s emergency management director, Howie Rose, key decisions were delayed over the time it took the TVA to provide meaningful information that caused estimated 12-hour delays over decisions regarding evacuation orders and “health, safety, and environmental concerns,” said KnoxvilleBiz previously.

We also wrote earlier this year about how information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, citing a report by Apparently, the 2002 EPA Risk Screening Report was only finally released in 2009 after President Barack Obama and his administration took office, said Environmental Integrity.

The plans to store ash dry does not remove all the risks to the environment and health, for instance, the utility must ensure the ash does not escape in the air, noted the Tennessean. Of note the TVA does manage some dry storage and actually considered doing so in Kingston a number of years ago—for an estimated cost of $25 million—but opted instead, on a cheaper method, which, clearly, did not work.

Kammeyer said that TVA staff is scheduled to present its plan to its board next week, wrote the Tennessean. These plans are taking place prior to EPA regulations on coal ash scheduled for release at the end of this year.

Keeping ash dry better enables its being recycled said the Tennessean, citing the American Coal Ash Association. “The trend in the industry is to go to dry storage,” said Thomas Adams, executive director of the association office in Aurora, Colorado, quoted the paper. “It’s much more reusable if you want to go pull some of that ash out,” Adams added.

This entry was posted in Accident. Bookmark the permalink.

© 2005-2019 Parker Waichman LLP ®. All Rights Reserved.