By the numbers
* 62 - Number of residential lots on or within view of the Emory River that sold Saturday at auction * $9,183,000 - Total value of winning bids to buy the properties * $1.1 billion - Amount TVA has spent to clean up from the 2008 Kingston ash spill * 5.4 million - Cubic yards of coal ash dumped into the Emory River and its lakefront properties from the ruptured ash pond * 277 - Number of bidders for the reclaimed TVA property at Saturday's auction * 9 - Number of states from which winning bidders came from. Sources: TVA, J.P. King Auction
Nearly seven years after a ruptured pond spilled coal ash into the Emory River and its shoreline property, most of the property damaged from the Kingston Fossil Plant spill has been reclaimed and home buyers appear eager to return to the Kingston site.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, which bought more than 1,000 acres damaged from its 2008 spill, sold 62 residential lots over the weekend collectively for nearly $9.2 million. The properties on the eastern shoreline of the Emory River attracted 277 bidders from at least nine states.
The 23 homes on the land TVA is selling back to individual homeowners fetched anywhere from $145,000 to $500,000 each, according to J.P. King, the auction company that sold the properties for TVA. The homes range in size from approximately 1,600 square feet to 7,100 square feet each.
TVA acquired most of the lakefront or lakeview neighborhood following the spill. To clean up the 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash dumped in the river and its shoreline, TVA operated crews around the clock for years.
The noise, light and pollution from the spill led TVA to buy nearly the entire neighborhood near the plant and use it to house the cleanup crews who toiled for years to get the toxic coal ash out of the river, soils and groundwater around the Kinston coal plant.
Roane County Ron Woody, who personally bid on three residential properties at Saturday's auction, said he was pleased with the results even though his own bids fell short of the prices ultimately to be paid for the sites.
"It looks like we'll be getting some new people move into our community, which is good, and we'll get these properties back on the tax roll," Woody said. "It was gratifying to see so much interest among people wanting to buy or build here again."
TVA purchased the 23 homes and 39 vacant properties before it began dredging the river.
"These homes weren't necessarily impacted by the spill, but the owners would have been impacted by 24/7 operations in the river," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said. "Many folks chose to sell, about a dozen or so chose to stay and are there today."
The sale of the homes over the weekend will provide TVA only a tiny fraction of the nearly $1.1 billion it has already spent to clean up from the coal ash spill and to compensate those with damaged properties.
But Brooks said the sale "is another step in restoring the area to conditions as good as or better than before the spill.
"We are glad all the properties offered sold at auction to private owners, which will return the Emory Road area to a residential neighborhood as it was intended," Brooks said Monday.
The coal ash spill occurred in December 2008 from the collapse of the TVA-built earthen dam used to store toxic coal ash. When the pond ruptured, coal ash spilled over 300 acres, destroyed 40 homes and contaminated the Emory River. It was the worst environmental disaster ever for TVA.
But after years of repairs and legal battles, TVA has removed all of the toxic ash, compensated damaged property owners and restored the river and shoreline around the Kingston coal plant.
"We've been pleased with TVA's response and the success of their auction indicates people are feeling good about this area again," Woody said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.