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Ash spill second anniversary nears, cleanup continues

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By Damon Lawrence

Heavy yellow equipment became a regular sight at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant following the fly ash catastrophe.

The sight is still common nearly two years later as work on the recovery effort continues.

“I guess it would be 2014 when we would expect to be completed,” said Barbara Martocci, TVA’s senior manager for media relations.

Wednesday, Dec. 22, will mark two years since the disaster.

TVA has posted pictures and video on its website that show what the area looked like the day of the disaster and what it looked like on Oct. 1 of this year.   

The TVA Office of the Inspector General has been one of the agency’s harshest critics over its handling of the disaster. However, in a September report the OIG praised TVA for progress made during the cleanup.

“TVA’s actions to date indicate it is committed to cleaning up the Kingston ash spill and restoring the area to its pre-spill condition,” the OIG wrote.

The first phase of the cleanup, dubbed time-critical by TVA and other agencies, focused on getting ash out of the Emory River.

That’s where most of the ash that spilled during the disaster ended up.

The first phase concluded on Dec. 1 when TVA sent the last train shipment of ash to the landfill in Perry County, Ala.

Kathryn Nash, senior manager for operations for the cleanup, called it a major accomplishment.

“This is the first time in our country where we’ve shipped this amount of ash this way because it’s a wet ash rather than dry,” she said. “Getting started in this project, it was really a trial and error type undertaking from which type of cars to use, which kind of liners, how many cars in a train, how many locomotives to pull the train, the route to the landfill, so it was a lot of work by a lot of different people.”

Martocci said there is still approximately 2.5 million to 3 million cubic yards of ash that remains to be cleaned up.

Phase two of the recovery focuses on putting that ash back into the dredge cell that failed on Dec. 22, 2008.

The ash will be stored there permanently. Some has already been put back.

“We’re going to finish in the next three to four years,” Martocci said. “Then we’ll have monitoring done after that, so although the work on the site will be complete, we’ll still be doing monitoring of river, air, land, that sort of stuff.”