500 million gallons of toxic sludge spill in tennessee
I didn't see anything actually shown on the news, but there are stories showing up on the TV stations websites now. I guess that much material is a little hard to sweep under a rug....
Quote:Well Water Near Ash Spill May Be Unsafe
Flood May Change Way TVA Handles Waste
POSTED: 11:52 am CST December 26, 2008
UPDATED: 4:59 pm CST December 29, 2008
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Some water samples near a massive spill of coal ash in eastern Tennessee are showing high levels of arsenic, and state and federal officials on Monday cautioned residents who use private wells or springs to stop drinking the water.
Samples taken near the spill slightly exceed drinking water standards for toxic substances, and arsenic in one sample was higher than the maximum level allowed for drinking water, according to a news release from the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the power plant where the spill occurred, the Environmental Protection Agency and other officials.
TVA spokesman Jim Allen said there are four private drinking water wells in the area affected by the spill and the agency should have tests from them this week.
"I think they were beyond the actual slide point of the material," EPA spokeswoman Laura Niles said of the wells. "There shouldn't be direct impact, but that's why they are sampling."
Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment, but elevated levels can cause ailments ranging from nausea to partial paralysis, and long-term exposure has been linked to several types of cancer, according to the EPA.
TVA's environmental executive Anda Ray said the arsenic levels were high because of the type of measurement that the EPA used, which included soil mixed in with water.
"Those samples were not dissolved arsenic," Ray said. "The dissolved arsenic, which is what you look at for drinking water samples, are undetectable in all the cases. The elevated arsenic that the EPA is referring to is the data that we collected when it was stirred up. It is routinely filtered out through all water treatment plants."
Authorities have said the municipal water supply is safe to drink.
The warning came a week after a retention pond burst at the Kingston Steam Plant, spreading more than a billion gallons of fly ash mixed with water over roughly 300 acres of Roane County and into a river. The deluge destroyed three homes and damaged 42 parcels of land, but there were no serious injuries.
However, environmental concerns could grow when the sludge containing the fly ash, a fine powdery material, dries out. The federal Environmental Protection agency and the TVA have begun air monitoring and on Monday advised people to avoid activities that could stir up dust, such as children or pets playing outside.
The dust can contain metals, including arsenic, that irritate the skin and can aggravate pre-existing condition such as asthma, Niles said.
The EPA recommends that anyone exposed to the dust should wash thoroughly with soap and water and wash the affected clothes separately from other garments.
Ray said TVA will start installing sprinkler systems in areas where the ash has dried out to keep it moist.
The spill could change the way the nation's largest government-owned utility stores coal waste. On Monday, officials in Roane County said they are pushing the TVA to quit using large retention ponds filled with a mix of water and fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants.
Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said that he has talked with TVA officials and doesn't expect to see that type of holding pond on the TVA property in the future.
"I don't think Roane County would be happy to see that type of storage facility ... long-term," Farmer said.
TVA Chief Executive and President Tom Kilgore also told residents at a public meeting Sunday that his agency is looking at disposal options at the plant roughly 35 miles west of Knoxville.
Farmer said county officials are reviewing documents from TVA about the pond failure and will also get an independent engineering firm to evaluate them. The utility is still investigating what caused the dike to burst but officials have speculated that cold weather and above-normal rains were contributing factors.
TVA Inspector General Richard Moore said Monday that his office will investigate the spill and TVA's response to it. The inspector general's office is independent from TVA but will coordinate its work with EPA and Tennessee environmental regulators.
Knoxville-based TVA supplies electricity to Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
Quote:Sludge Spill Exposes Vulnerability Of Other TVA Plants
The Tennessee Valley Authority said its plants are safe.
A week after a massive coal ash spill in East Tennessee, the nation's largest government-owned utility is now evaluating all of its plants.
Crews will be in Sumner County Wednesday to see whether the ash pond there is safe.
TVA has seven coal-powered plants in Tennessee including one in Gallatin.
Sumner County's emergency management director is taking a closer look at the Gallatin Steam Plant. It burns up to 14,000 tons of coal a day. It operates the same way the Kingston plant does.
On the property, there is a large pond collecting waste coal ash sludge.
"We don't have a plan written specifically for an incident like this," said a Sumner County official.
About 5.4 millions cubic yards of ash was displaced when a retention pond wall breached, according to the TVA Web site. The sludge covered slightly less than 300 acres and left some neighbors homeless.
The failure of the coal ash containment retention wall at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant has brought new attention to ash ponds.
TVA said the difference between the Kingston pond and the Gallatin pond is that Kingston's was much larger. It had 60-foot dikes while Gallatin's has 20-foot dikes.
"This really isn't acceptable anymore. We've got to figure out other ways to deal with this kind of waste," said John McFadden, executive director of the Tennessee Environmental Council.
Environmental groups say what happened in Kingston is a wake-up call. TVA admits none of its ash ponds are lined. And there is little federal regulation about how waste from coal plants is dealt with.
"We've got to question the technology we're using. Admittedly, this is very, very low technology to have a hole in the ground where we're just dumping this material in it," McFadden said.
TVA's coal plant in Humphreys County also has a large ash pond right on the Tennessee River. TVA said it will immediately begin checking ponds at all its plants. It will start with the Gallatin plant because it's so close to the water supply for much of Middle Tennessee.
TVA does not yet have test results of the sludge from the spill in Kingston. But some surrounding areas have tested high for arsenic and lead. TVA said there's no threat to anyone's health.
Sumner County Emergency Management officials said TVA has been working with them. They expect a meeting next week to learn more about the ash pond at the Gallatin plant.
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