KINGSTON, Tenn. - Almost a year after the Kingston ash spill dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of wet coal ash onto Tennessee land and rivers, TVA officials on Thursday touted their progress toward cleaning it up.
"Today is not a milestone for us," said Steve McCracken, TVA's general manager of the Kingston Ash Recovery Project. "That will be in the spring when we've dredged the ash from the (main channel) of the Emory River and then again in years to come when we restore all of this site."
But Mr. McCracken, who took over the command of the cleanup in October, said progress is good, and the agency is on schedule with its work.
To date, about 2.2 million cubic yards has been dredged from the river's main channel - about 40 percent of the spilled ash and about two-thirds of what spilled directly into the main channel when an earthen landfill dam ruptured on Dec. 22.
When the river work is completed, TVA will begin removing the toxic-laden ash from river sloughs and nearby property, he said.
Craig Zeller and Leo Francendese, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's land and air officials assigned to the ash spill site, also said considerable progress has been made.
Mr. Zeller said TVA contractors daily are pulling about twice as much ash from the river as can be dried out on the nearby Kingston Fossil Plant's ball fields and then loaded onto rail cars bound for a double-lined landfill in Perry County, Ala., near Tuscaloosa.
"That's a pinch (in the cleanup process) for us," Mr. Zeller said of the rail transport.
Mr. Francendese said the most danger from the spilled ash comes from the possibility that silica in it could become airborne.
"That's why we have all this air monitoring," he said, pointing to a monitoring station near the spill site.
It's also why the TVA is sprinkling the spilled ash to keep the surface damp and continually seeding disturbed areas with grass.
So far, Mr. Francendese said, the air monitoring has not shown any dangerous levels of airborne ash or dust.