Ash to be removed from river by spring 2010

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By The Staff



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported Thursday that at least 1.2 million yards of fly ash from last year’s ash spill at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant have been removed from the Emory River and surrounding area.

Statistics provided by TVA at last week’s public meeting indicated that 810,000 cubic yards of ash have been dredged from the river, with 390,000 cubic yards excavated from the surrounding land.

“I have tremendous confidence by spring 2010 it will be out of the river,” said Leo Francendese, EPA’s on-scene coordinator.

About 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash spilled into the Emory River and land surrounding its Kingston Fossil Plant in the early hours of Dec. 22, 2008. The EPA has been overseeing the cleanup process, and its officials discussed three possible alternatives for ash disposal.

“All three result in the closure of the (failed dredge) cell at lower elevations than it is now,” said Craig Zeller, EPA remedial project manager.

The alternatives also include longterm monitoring.

The first alternative includes the excavation of 2.5 million cubic yards of coal ash west of dike 2 with off-site disposal.

Restoration would be to pre-spill conditions and include the closure of the failed dredge cell. Some improvements to perimeter dikes would be done to contain displaced material.

Alternative two is the excavation of 6 million cubic yards of coal ash with off-site disposal, the restoration to pre-spill conditions, closure of the failed dredge cell and less reliance on perimeter dikes as the cell is returned to near-ground surface.

The last alternative is the excavation of 2.5 million cubic yards of coal ash west of dike 2 with on-site disposal in closed out dredge cell.

Major improvements would be done to perimeter dikes to contain the displaced material, and the area would be restored to pre-spill conditions.  

Zeller explained that the public will be involved in selecting which alternative would be utilized — and that other alternatives are not necessarily out of the mix.

“These are all draft,” he stressed. “EPA hasn’t decided this is it. This is what we think are the best options. These alternatives have been screened. We looked at probably up to 10.”

A fourth alternative not considered is to leave the ash in the embayments and sloughs and bring in dirt to cover it up and plant grass over it.

Zeller referred to this as the little or no-action alternative.

“We didn’t think that people in this room and community would want to see the no-action alternative,” he said.

Zeller said they would probably be asking for public opinion on the options in early 2010.

He explained that the EPA is splitting the non-time critical phase into two additional phases.

First is the removal of the coal ash west of dike 2 in the embayments and sloughs.

The second phase would be looking at the residual ash remaining in the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee rivers to determine the risk that the residual ash may pose.

What would happen with the residual ash in the river would be looked at starting late 2010 or early 2011.

“It is data intensive,” Zeller said, including samplings such as fish tissue and toxicity.

“There are lots of people involved with that decision,” he added.  

The EPA said they are doing well with removal of ash east of dike 2.

“We are on track to meet the spring 2010 schedule,” Francendese said.

The estimated dredging completion is March to May 2010, but it will take longer for the ash disposal to go off-site to Perry County, Ala.

Zeller said they are dredging and excavating faster than they can transport the material off-site.

He said a plan for the remaining non-time critical steps must be in place by this spring.

An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis document by TVA with oversight by EPA will be available this month.

That document evaluates various cleanup alternatives for the fly ash in the Emory River, east of dike 2 and the ash in the Swan Pond Embayment and Berkshire Slough west of dike 2 and fly ash in upland areas and surface soil.