TVA must install liner at leaking pond

TVA must install liner at leaking pond

December 21st, 2010 by Pam Sohn in News

The order

TVA must:

Discontinue receiving or disposing of gypsum waste at the landfill with new state approval.

Submit in 30 days a plan to drain, inspect and analyze the pond's failure.

Submit in 30 days a plan to manage the gypsum waste from the plant during the pond and landfill's shutdown.

Submit a plan to stabilize and repair the pond, adding a synthetic liner to the existing clay liner.

Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

A state order against TVA will idle the Kingston Fossil Plant's new $456 million air scrubber until the utility drains and relines the 1-year-old gypsum waste pond that sprang a leak last week.

The leak, discovered Wednesday -- exactly one week before the 2-year anniversary of TVA's 1.2 million-gallon coal ash spill at the same Harriman, Tenn., plant -- sent a shock wave through the community.

"Are we really safe? Really?" said Sarah McCoin, a resident of the Swan Pond community where TVA still has about 500 million gallons of ash to clean up.

On Monday, TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said the utility has no estimate of how much time it will take or what it will cost to comply with a Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation order to install a synthetic liner in the pond, which now is lined only with clay.

The state order, issued Friday, described the discovery of the leak as "a small vortex visible at the surface of the water in the gypsum landfill."

According to the order, a TVA contractor investigating the gypsum pond's drainlike vortex "identified a dropout or sinkhole in the landfill liner. ... The leak was approximately one-to-two feet in diameter."

On the other side of the dike wall, water was found seeping out just inches from the Clinch River.

Last week, TVA had described the leak as being "quarter-sized."

The state and TVA said the leak appeared to be mostly clear water, not gypsum.

"There's very little gypsum in the pond, still," said Steve McCracken, TVA's general manager for the Kingston ash recovery project.

Gypsum wastes come from the air scrubbing process that removes sulfur dioxide from the flue gas that is created during the burning of coal to make electricity. The plant's new but now-idled scrubber only has been online since June.

The coal ash waste, spilled on Dec. 22, 2008, came from 50 years of burning coal within the plant.

The gypsum pond is about a mile from the 2008 ash pond spill site.

Contact staff writer Pam Sohn at psohn@ or 423-757-6346.