KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority is working to contain the release of potentially toxic pollutants from the coal-fired Kingston power plant after a breach in an earthen dike released 2.6 million cubic yards of ash from a holding pond.
"I would say we are trying to contain first and recover second," TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Kilgore said Tuesday.
A surface layer of ash was slowly moving down the Emory River from the plant near Harriman, about 50 miles west of Knoxville. TVA hoped to trap it with a temporary dike on the Emory River and a boom farther downstream on the Tennessee River.
State and federal environmental officials were awaiting results of water quality tests. But Kilgore said preliminary TVA tests suggest the millions of people who get their drinking water from the 652-mile Tennessee River shouldn't worry.
"We have no reason so far to know that is unsafe," he told a news conference, noting TVA is working closely with the Tennessee Department of Environmental and Conservation and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The water intake for the town of Kingston is about six miles downstream of the power plant.
"It is possible it is going to have some metals in there," said Laura Niles, regional spokeswoman for the EPA in Atlanta. Those could include mercury and arsenic.