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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Legislation that would set requirements for the storage of coal fly ash in landfills was passed by the state senate this week.
Under Senate Bill 1559, landfills would have to contain a liner and be capped properly in order for the state to grant a permit for the storage of fly ash.
“It is imperative that we take these precautions to protect our community’s health,” state Sen. Ken Yager, one of the backers of the bill, said in a statement. “This legislation would give TDEC the tools they need to make sure that it is stored properly in the future.”
If that’s the goal, it appears to be a bit late.
The senate bill is for “any new coal ash disposal facility, or expansion of any existing coal ash disposal facility.”
According to TDEC’s Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, numerous landfills across the state already accept coal ash.
For example, the Volunteer Regional Landfill in Scott County, which, like Roane, is part of Yager’s district, receives 1,200 tons of coal fly ash per year.
The Loudon County Landfill also receives more than 1,000 tons of coal fly ash each year. Landfills in Hawkins, Washington, Marshall and Shelby counties also receive coal ash, according to the state.
The Kingston Fossil Plant is also permitted to store coal fly ash. The senate legislation was prompted by the disaster that occurred there on Dec. 22, 2008. A retention pond gave way, causing an estimated 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash to spill into the surrounding area.
Roane County officials upset some residents recently when they began discussing the possibility of storing the fly ash at a landfill in Midtown. The county commission approved spending $75,000 to update its permits and get the 69-acre landfill shovel ready.
“What we looked at was, do we want this on five miles of Roane County roads or do we want it on 25 or 30 miles of Roane County roads,” Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said.
One Midtown resident challenged that notion.
“Maybe they’ll go the interstate. Mike,” Mary Helen Nichols said. “I believe we’ve got Interstate 40.”
The state has different classifications for landfills.
Class I landfills handle things such as household and municipal waste. Class II landfills handle industrial waste.
Farmer said the county is seeking a Class I landfill permit, but that wouldn’t necessarily bar the county from accepting fly ash.
“Typically, this would be a Class II landfill, which takes nonhazardous industrial wastes, commercial wastes and fill and is regulated by the department’s Division of Solid Waste Management,” TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart wrote in an e-mail. “However, fly ash can go into a Class I landfill (a municipal solid waste landfill) with a special waste approval.”
The county’s plans for the landfill and disposal of the fly ash continues to be a hot topic.
It was discussed at length during Wednesday’s meeting of the Long Range Recovery Committee.
Farmer said not everyone is against the idea of storing the fly ash in Midtown.
Some would like to see the county make money off of it, he said.
“I got three phone calls last night that said what can we do to make sure that we keep that here and generate some revenue off of it,” Farmer said.
Resident Randy Ellis said TVA officials informed some residents recently that they plan to start hauling the fly ash by truck to other landfills in East Tennessee in the coming weeks.
Some of the residents at Wednesday’s meeting wondered why TVA would be planning to haul the ash some place else.
The Kingston plant already has a permitted fly ash landfill, according to the state. TVA is also steadily buying more and more property in the ash-spill zone.
“That could be a permitted landfill right there,” resident Melvin Jones said.