Summary of Past and Current EPA Response Activities Regarding The TVA Kingston Coal Ash Spill
On December 22, 2008, a failure of the northeastern dike used to contain fly ash occurred at the dewatering area of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant in Harriman, Roane County, Tennessee. Subsequent to the dike failure, approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash sludge was released into a branch of the Emory River.
Upon notification of the release, EPA joined TVA, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and other State and local agencies in a coordinated response structure. EPA provided oversight and technical advice to TVA, and conducted independent water sampling and air monitoring to evaluate public health and environmental threats. In general, shortly after the release, samples of untreated river water showed elevated levels of suspended ash and heavy metals known to be associated with coal ash. This was also observed again after a heavy rainfall. However, treated drinking water from the Kingston Water Treatment Plant, located downstream of the release, has met all Federal standards since the ash release occurred. TDEC is continuing a regular sampling program at the Plant.
Additionally, EPA and TDEC identified and sampled potentially impacted private wells that are used as a source for drinking water. TDEC continues to handle well sampling requests from residents within four miles of the ash spill. More than 100 wells have been tested to date and all have met drinking water standards.
To address potential risks from windblown ash, TVA, under EPA oversight, began air monitoring for coarse and fine particles. EPA also conducted independent monitoring to validate TVA’s findings. To date, all of the more than 25,000 air samples from this area have measured levels below the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for particles. EPA and TDEC will continue to oversee TVA’s air monitoring throughout the cleanup, as well as TVA’s efforts to control dust at the site.
Protection of public health and safety remains a primary concern. EPA and TDEC are also concerned about the long-term ecological health of the Emory and Clinch Rivers.
To facilitate coordination of internal activities, on January 21, 2009, EPA Region 4 formed a Kingston Ash Spill Task Force. Senior staffers from the Region’s air, water, waste, and laboratory programs are represented on the Task Force to ensure complete and adequate coverage of all issues. Draft plans, products and data produced by TVA and TDEC are reviewed by the Task force and approval by the Region is coordinated through each of these programs. Members of the Task Force and their staff review data for quality control, participate in site visits and reviews, and keep in close contact with TDEC and TVA during all phases of the recovery.
EPA and TDEC will ensure that the cleanup of the site is comprehensive, based on sound scientific and ecological principles, moves as quickly as possible, and complies with or exceeds all Federal and State environmental standards.