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By TERRI LIKENS
A Roane County man took a wild ride when his home was pushed off its foundation and into the road by a wall of sludge from a TVA containment pond.
That Swan Pond area home near TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant was one of about a dozen residences that were inundated with a thick sludge from a fly ash retention pond that collapsed just before 1 a.m. Monday.
It was a rude awakening on a night where temperatures dropped to 11 degrees.
Scott Stout of the Roane County Emergency Services Office, one of those who was on the scene early on, said the man was not seriously injured.
“He was able to crawl out a window, and we took him to safety,” Stout said. “It was definitely part of a muddy surrounding.”
Gil Francis said sludge up to 6 feet deep had spilled, covering 250 to 400 acres in the area.
The break pushed a deep wall of earth across Swan Pond Road and train tracks into the plant, blocking both.
There has been no indication when the road and track will be cleared.
A coal train was caught in the mess, although it was not derailed, Francis said.
Francis said people should not be concerned about the Kingston Fossil Fuel plant’s ability to produce electricity despite bitter cold temperatures Monday.
“We’ve got plenty of coal,” he said. Officials said later that the plant has a two- to three-month supply on hand.
Possibly four of the affected houses may have serious structural damage, according to Howie Rose, director of Roane County’s emergency management office.
Other concerns, along with the clearing of roads and railways, were public utilities.
Power lines had been downed by the sweeping muck, but Stout said other utilities may have been affected.
“From what I understand, there could be some natural gas situations,” he said.
Harriman Utility Board workers were at the scene and evaluating the situation.
“In fact, they’re still working on those issues as we speak,” Stout said.
For those who were displaced, a shelter was set up at Roane State Community College.
Chris Davis, a spokesman for the Knoxville American Red Cross Chapter, said a couple and their three children had moved into it Monday.
What caused the impoundment to break is among yet-to-be answered questions.
Weather is likely a contributing factor, Francis said, “but we’re still going to have to assess that.”
December rains have been around double what is normal, and temperatures recently have swung from highs in the 60-degree range to Monday’s low of about 11.
Such weather extremes, however, aren’t all that unusual in East Tennessee.
TVA president Tom Kil-gore conducted a short news conference outside near the blocked road.
“We don’t know everything yet,” Kilgore said. “We will determine as much as we can about the cause.”
He said the containment pond originally spread across 70 acres, but since the spill, it is “probably three times that.”
“There are levels of chemicals in there (ash ponds) we are concerned about,” Kilgore said.
Testing hasn’t shown an immediate danger.
Kilgore said the containment pond was fully inspected in January.
This is the first pond failure for TVA, he said.
Kilgore said wells around the containment pond are checked on a daily basis for signs of underground leakage, but he wasn’t aware of any indication of trouble.
“We’re obviously going back through those with a fine-toothed comb,” hesaid.
The impoundment contains fly ash generated through the burning of coal to produce electricity.
TVA also has plans to put in another containment pond for ash created when a new scrubber now under construction is started up next year.
Reporter Cindy Simpson also contributed to this story.