Tennessee: Tests show no fly ash toxins in river water

Tennessee: Tests show no fly ash toxins in river water

January 22nd, 2009 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Three weeks of daily testing show no signs of any toxins in the Tennessee River related to a fly ash spill coal spill last month, Tennessee-American Water officials said Wednesday.

"Nothing's unusual," said Kim Durham, a laboratory analyst for Tennessee-American Water. "Everything's been the same."

The water company started daily testing on Dec. 29 after a fly ash spill occurred at TVA's coal plant in Kingston, Tenn., said John Watson, Tennessee-American Water president.

BY THE NUMBERS

* 40 million: Gallons of water treated by Tennessee-American Water daily.

* 400,000: Number of people Tennessee-American Water serves.

* 6: Number of counties the water company serves.

Source: Tennessee-American Water

For decades, the company has tested the water monthly for the same types of metals associated with the spill, he said. But since the spill, the water company increased frequency of testing to ensure none of the metals were showing up in the city's water supply.

Tennessee-American Water is testing for 19 different heavy metals in the water. Mr. Watson said testing will continue indefinitely.

"We're going to continue to run samples and do the analysis until the state officials say it's all clear and that we no longer have a concern," Mr. Watson said.

Kim Dalton, Tennessee-American spokeswoman, said the company's water samples are sent to a corporate laboratory in Belleville, Ill. The results come back within 24 to 48 hours, she said. The samples have been listed high priority because of the spill, she said.

"They're turning ours over immediately," she said.

State officials have said it could take as long as 60 days before any toxins reach the Hamilton County area of the Tennessee River. The spill occurred Dec. 22, dumping more than 1.1 billion gallons of coal-ash sludge onto nearby land and into the Emory River, which feeds into the Tennessee.

The sludge contained such toxic substances as arsenic, chromium, cadmium and thallium.

Mr. Watson said the years of testing for metals has given the water company a background on the river and if anything changes, they would know.

"We can tell if there's an increase," he said.

The city's Department of Public Works, along with TVA, also is conducting separate tests on the river. The city started its testing a month ago and is awaiting results.