The Army is coming to the rescue of the Emory River section that filled with muck last week when a TVA retaining pond collapsed, spilling 1 billion gallons of fly ash and coal-burning residues into the river.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which recently mapped the river bottom and shores of the Emory and the nearby Clinch River, plans to dredge part of the ash-filled Emory in early 2009.
Ray Bess, a civilian engineer technician in the navigation branch of the Army Corps’ Nashville district, said the Corps has hired Luhr Brothers Inc. to dredge the river bottom. The Columbia, Ill.-based contractor will use a hydraulic system that will pump the sludge out of the river bottom like a vacuum cleaner, Mr. Bess said.
“It’s our responsibility to clear the channel to make sure it’s back to its original depth,” he said.
The Corps is responsible for maintaining navigation on the Emory and Clinch rivers, both of which were filled partially with ash sludge generated by TVA’s Kingston coal plant. But Mr. Bess said TVA will be responsible for obtaining environmental permits for dredging and paying the cost of the cleanup.
TVA President Tom Kilgore has pledged to pay for costs associated with the cleanup, but he said it is too early to estimate what the expense may be.
In the past, the Emory River has been navigable up to Harriman, nearly 10 miles upstream from the Kingston plant. Last week’s spill has clogged the river with up to six feet of ash and muck.
Mr. Bess said the Corps surveyed the navigation channel and river bottom of the Emory and Clinch rivers six months ago as part of its regular survey program to map the contours and depths of inland rivers for commercial navigation.
TVA spokeswoman Myra Ireland said the Emory River remains closed for four miles, and the Kingston Fossil Plant Boat Ramp and fishing area also have been closed because of large equipment being moved into the area for cleanup. Coast Guard and TVA Police marine units are assisting with security in the area.