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By CINDY SIMPSON
The cause behind the ash that floated through the air on Sept. 18 from the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant is still unknown.
“We’re still investigating what has happened,” Kingston Fossil Plant Manager Leslie Nale said.
“We believe the particulate is primarily fly ash,” she added.
Nale said the plant began test burning higher sulfur coal on Sept. 7 after receiving a variance from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
She said the burns were another example of TVA failing to communicate with the public, something officials have said they will work on.
“We failed to communicate with the public we were doing these coal test burns,” Nale said. “We also failed in communicating after we knew the event occurred with the local residents.”
The burn was to determine the types of coal that can be burned after the scrubber installation at the plant.
When TDEC notified TVA of the release, officials shut down the two units, and those units are still not online, Nale said.
The plant has also surrendered the opacity meter from the stack to help in the investigation.
One resident questioned if the opacity meter could be tied to an alarm. Nale replied that an alarm will go off if the meter registers 20 percent opacity.
“We did not have an opacity alarm” during the September burn, she said. She added that she was unsure why it didn’t happen.
Quincy Styke, TDEC’s air pollution control division deputy director, said TVA has been directed to do a root-cause analysis “that should be available to TDEC and the public by Oct. 10.”
Officials also looked at an air-monitoring site.
“We did see a spike at 4 p.m. on the 18th” Styke said.
Styke said the state will take action against TVA if need be for any noncompliance.
TDEC is also pursuing Natural Resources Damages because of the Dec. 22, 2008, fly ash spill.
The state can assess if someone has caused damage to Tennessee’s natural resources, according to Paul Davis, TDEC’s division of water pollution control director.
Davis said TDEC has hired a consultant to look at the damages.