published Saturday, June 29th, 2013

TVA coal ash spill cleanup in East Tennessee complete

Coal ash from a 40-acre pond flows into the Emory River after a retention wall collapsed Dec. 22, 2008 at the Kingston Fossil Plant.
Coal ash from a 40-acre pond flows into the Emory River after a retention wall collapsed Dec. 22, 2008 at the Kingston Fossil Plant.
Photo by The Knoxville News Sentinel /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HARRIMAN, Tenn. — The massive coal ash cleanup near a Tennessee Valley Authority coal-fired power plant in East Tennessee is wrapping up.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that, with the removal of a final pile of gray ash Friday, the $1.1 billion removal of spilled ash around a failed containment cell concluded.

The federal utility is also placing a liner over the cell which TVA described as a significant step in the process of closing it by late 2014. The first section of the liner is already in place on a segment of the cell.

“These are major steps toward our goal of restoring the area to a condition that is as good as or better than it was before the spill,” said Bob Deacy, TVA senior vice president of Generation Construction.

It was on a frigid early morning on Dec. 22, 2008, that the containment cell at the Kingston Fossil Plant failed and some 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spread from it. There were no deaths or injuries.

“It wasn’t any spill. It was an upheaval,” Roane County resident Steve Scarborough, an engineer, said. “We had an 8-foot-tall tsumani.”

With the last of the removal of ash from land near the plant on Friday, TVA will have scooped up more than 3 million cubic yards of ash from the middle embayment and areas north of the cell using excavating equipment.

The ash will be covered and permanently stored at the plant site. TVA is building an earthquake-resistant, reinforced wall tied into bedrock up to 70 feet deep around it. That project is expected to conclude in the fall.

TVA still must monitor layers of ash on the bottom of the Emory and Clinch rivers for 30 years.

It was agreed that allowing the streams naturally to bury the ash under layers of sediment was the best solution for the underwater sludge.

The entire Kingston Recovery Project is expected to be completed by early 2015.

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