Sunday, December 28, 2008

More on the Tennessee Coal Ash Disaster

The flood of water and coal ash from a TVA plant is much larger than the original reports announced – over 1 billion gallons of sludge.

Officials at the authority initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant, about 40 miles west of Knoxville, gave way on Monday. But on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep.

The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards.
This material is highly toxic. So far TVA officials have announced positive tests for lead and thallium, at levels that cause health problems for humans. The water also contains high levels of iron and manganese, which apparently affects taste but not safety. In addition, federal studies have reported high levels of heavy metals and carcinogens in some coal ash, but so far it is not clear if that is true of the ash at the spill site.