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TVA's gypsum pond springs leak

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By Damon Lawrence

TVA’s effort to regain public confidence took another hit Wednesday.

A leak was discovered in the gypsum pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant.

The leak was stopped around 1 a.m. Thursday, said TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci.

In a news release, TVA said the pond was leaking water.

“The seepage poses no hazard,” the release said. “However, as a precaution, TVA is testing the water and has notified the (U.S.) Environmental Protection Agency and state regulatory agencies. The seepage did not occur in a part of the pond where gypsum is stored.”

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials said they are investigating.

“The gypsum pond has not been in use for very long, and most of the liquid in it is storm water,” TDEC Communications Director Tisha Calabrese-Benton    said in an e-mail. “That does not change the fact, however, that the department is highly concerned about any unauthorized release at the facility and will respond accordingly.”

Roane County Commissioner Randy Ellis said the incident puts things in perspective a few days before the two-year anniversary of the fly ash catastrophe.

“I’m just not confident at this point in the engineering techniques they’re using over there,” Ellis said.

TVA said the leak was discovered during a routine inspection.

Roane County Executive Ron Woody said Office of Emergency Services director Howie Rose notified him about the incident Wednesday evening.

Woody said he also received a call from TVA.

A dike failure at the Kingston facility on Dec. 22, 2008, belched more than 5 million cubic yards of ash into the environment.

No one died, but homes were damaged, infrastructure in the area was ripped apart and toxic ash polluted the Emory River.

TVA is still in the process of cleaning up the mess.

TVA said gypsum is a limestone-like substance resulting from pollution-control processes involving new scrubbers.

Many people voiced concerns about TVA’s plan to store gypsum at the facility following the ash disaster.

Ellis said the concerns were justified.

“I want TVA to show the people of Roane County that that structure over there is completely safe,” Ellis said. “I fear for the residents that live around that area.”

TDEC’s Division of Water Pollution Control also issued TVA a Notice of Violation on Nov. 25, 2009, for a loss of water from the Flue Gas Desulfurization Stormwater Pond.

“This pond is sometimes referred to as the gypsum stilling pond, and it is separate from the gypsum pond itself,” TDEC official said.

“Any time theres a leak, of course there’s a concern,” said Sylvia Parkison, who lives on Windswept Lane in Kingston, across the Clinch River from the gypsum pond.

Parkison said she wasn’t aware of the details of the leak.

“Certainly, we want it done right,” she said of the engineering and work on the gypsum containment system.