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31 Dec, 2008

TVA Ash Spill – Update

Posted by: Skylar In: news|Stormwater

In the past couple of days, the spill from the TVA plant has been gaining a lot more publicity.  This is thanks in part to two lawsuits that have been filed against the TVA.  The first suit is by a local landowner claiming $165 Million in damages to a nearby subdivision.  The second suit was filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which plans to sue under the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The EPA has also reported that an elevated amount of arsenic was found in a single water sample downstream.  Naturally, the public has been blowing this out of proportion.  Yes, elevated amounts of arsenic can often be associated with fly ash.  However, it’s important to understand what the testing truly indicates.  From the EPA Press release:

One sample of river water out of numerous samples taken indicated an elevated level of arsenic, however arsenic has been found to be naturally occurring in the environment and further investigation is in progress. Arsenic was not detected in samples taken close to the Kingston Water Intake. Unless people regularly drink untreated river water, the arsenic should not cause any adverse health effects. Surface water sample results in the area of the drinking water intakes did not indicate standards exceedances, but sampling will continue.

That said, contamination is still an issue due to heavy metals.  Also from the EPA release:

Current environmental data from surface water sampling indicates that several heavy metals are present in the surface water slightly above drinking water standards in the area of the spill, but not in the area of the Kingston water supply intake. Drinking water standards are designed to be conservative, and results to date are below concentrations EPA knows to be harmful to humans.

It looks like the TVA is being very careful with the press, and probably with good reason.  There is a lot of cleanup that needs to happen as they move forward.

I think it’s important to note a couple of things in this situation:

  • We need to take better care of waste storage areas.
  • When it comes to contaminants, accidents can always happen (no matter how hard you try to hide the waste)

For a recent article on the TVA spill, check out this one from the Associated Press.  Then again, you could always read the short CNN version, but it seems to think the spill happened on December 26th…

photo by rwhitlock

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