Fly ash to hit rail, highways

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By The Staff


Ash-filled trains will soon be on the roll to Alabama, and TVA will soon begin test runs of trucking ash to area landfills.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the TVA’s plan to transfer coal ash from the Emory River to the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Ala., despite some complaints the ash is being dumped in an area with

an impoverished, minority population.

Four landfills in counties neighboring Roane have been approved for truck testing.

According to an EPA news release Thursday, the Arrowhead Landfill was selected because it meets and exceeds stringent EPA standards.

TVA identified potential disposal sites for disposal of approximately 3 million of the total 5.4 million cubic yards of ash spilled at the Kingston site, and submitted a disposal options analysis for EPA’s review and approval.

TVA received 25 proposals from potential disposal sites. Three that are accessible by rail and four by truck in Alabama, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee met screening criteria and were evaluated.

Arrowhead Landfill features a compacted clay liner and a high-density polyethylene liner; a leachate collection system that gathers liquids and pumps them to the surface for treatment; and a protective cover.

Norfolk Southern has a direct rail line from the TVA facility to the landfill.

Rail transport is preferred over truck transport because there is less potential for accidents, greater fuel efficiency and no burden on road traffic.

Even so, trucks full of TVA fly ash could soon be emanating from Roane County to landfills in outlying areas.

State officials have approved a “limited land disposal test run” beginning July 15, according to Tisha Calabrese-Benton, communications director for Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The test runs — to Class I Tennessee landfills in McMinn, Loudon, Anderson/Knox and Scott counties — allow TVA to send five to 10 truckloads of ash to be disposed at the approved landfills.

EPA officials have emphasized that ash be removed from the Emory River, and the river be returned to its natural state. The ash contains arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc.

Speedy disposal, according to the EPA, will minimize the potential for further flooding and disturbance to wildlife.

Since the ash disposal needs to begin immediately, the public will be invited to comment as work begins.

For longer-term response actions, including the disposal of the remaining 2.4 million cubic yards of ash from surface areas, the public will have an opportunity to comment on proposed actions before decisions are made.