Tennessee-American tests water following Kingston plant spill

Tennessee-American tests water following Kingston plant spill

January 1st, 2009 in Local Regional News

Chattanooga's water utility and the city's Public Works Department have expanded their monitoring of the Tennessee River to ensure no toxic materials contaminate the local water supply from fly ash that spilled into a river 115 miles upstream.


Saturday - How spill might affect the Tennessee Aquarium's endangered species program.

Sunday - Fly ash spill reshapes landscape for region and coal industry.

Monday - Should TVA and other utilities change how they handle coal ash?

Tennessee-American Water announced Wednesday it has begun daily monitoring for heavy metals in the water at its intake on the Tennessee River. The move follows last week's spill into a Tennessee River tributary from TVA's Kingston coal plant. A ruptured retaining pond at the power plant spilled more than 1 billion gallons of fly ash and muck into the Emory and Clinch rivers, which flow into the Tennessee River.

"To date, there have been no issues associated with the water supply to the city of Chattanooga and the surrounding communities served by Tennessee-American Water," company President John Watson said in a statement.

Tennessee-American decided to add daily tests for heavy metals and toxic materials because of public concerns, company spokesman Raymond Golden said. Water samples from the river are being shipped daily to the American Water Works lab in Belleville, Ind., he said.

The coal ash spill is not likely to have any major impact in Chattanooga, he said, since it occurred more than 100 miles upstream and there are two TVA-controlled dams between the site of the spill and Tennessee-American's water intake sites.

More than 3 billion gallons of water pass through Chattanooga every day in the Tennessee River, most of which comes from other tributaries and runoff downstream of the Kingston coal plant, Mr. Golden added.

The utility's treatment plant also is designed to remove heavy metals and ash residue through its multistaged filter, he said.

"The treatment process, under most conditions, should successfully remove contaminants resulting from the spill should they travel this far down the river," Mr. Golden said.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Wednesday he has requested that the city's Department of Public Works carry out periodic testing to ensure water quality standards are being met.

"This testing period will go on as long as necessary," said Richard Beeland, a spokesman for the mayor.

Mr. Littlefield and Hamilton County Mayor Claude Ramsey participated in a conference call Wednesday with officials from TVA, the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The mayors issued a statement to reassure local residents that Chattanooga's water supplies have not been contaminated by the Kingston spill.

TVA is continuing around-the-clock cleanup of the spill, although the utility has yet to determine how and when all the ash deposits will be cleaned up.

"We have stayed in contact with EPA, TVA and TDEC as we closely watch and test our water supply from the Tennessee River," said Mr. Watson of Tennessee-American. "We will continue to do daily testing until environmental regulatory officials are certain the issue has passed."