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TVA black plume grabbing attention

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Something was falling from the sky in the Swan Pond community on Friday.

The material was coming from one of the smoke stacks at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

“I’ve actually gone over and watched it fall,” Roane County Executive Mike Farmer said. 

Dark-looking smoke could be seen billowing out of one of the smoke stacks throughout the day Friday.

According to a statement from TVA, the falling material was the result of  test operations being performed at the plant.

“TVA was performing a test burn of higher sulfur coals to determine if they can be used at the Kingston Fossil Plant once its new scrubbers are operational,” the statement read.

“When material was seen coming from the stack at the plant on Friday, TVA began shutting down the one unit that was causing the release, stopping the plume from the stack.”

Residents were caught by surprise that particles from the smoke stack were sprinkling the community.

Randy Ellis, who has family that lives in the area, said he called officials with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, TVA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to try and find out what was going on.

TDEC was investigating the matter. Communications director Tisha Calabrese-Benton said workers with the department’s division of air pollution control visited the Ellis property in the Swan Pond community Friday after receiving a complaint.

Calabrese-Benton said the workers collected a sample and planned to send it to a lab for analysis.

“Our inspectors visited the TVA facility following their visit to the residence to review plant operations,” Calabrese-Benton wrote in an e-mail.

“The investigation is currently ongoing, and I couldn’t speculate as to what the outcome will ultimately be, but it is something we are continuing to review.”

Farmer said when he went out to look into the matter, the wind was blowing smoke from the TVA stack toward Swan Pond Baptist Church.

Farmer said he was behind the church watching the material fall from the sky.

“It’s either henny penny or fly ash,” he said.

Ellis said the particles also looked like fly ash.

“Some of it’s hard, some of it’s ashy,” Ellis said.

The TVA statement said the agency plans to do its own investigation.

The material being burned was “a mid-level sulfur coal,” the statement read.

“The particles seen coming from the stack were a product of burning that coal after it passed through the plant’s emissions control systems. TVA has taken samples of the materials released for analysis and will investigate the cause of the release.”

Ellis said the particles falling from the sky is just one more worry for a community that’s already dealing with a lot because of TVA.

The area surrounding the fossil plant was engulfed with 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash after a dike burst at the plant last December.

“This is taking a toll on them emotionally,” Ellis said. “Dealing with the uncertainty if this area is unhealthy because of the spill, dealing with the headaches of the traffic daily.

“Then they wake up and see this ash stuff covering everything.”