Saturday, January 03, 2009

Toxic Coal Ash in Tennessee Waterways

It turns out that the ongoing environmental disaster in Tennessee is worse than advertised., according to independent tests conducted at Appalachian State University.

Tuberty and Babyak conducted tests for 17 different heavy metals in triplicate using standard EPA methods. The samples were collected on Saturday, December 27 by Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby from three separate locations on the Emory River.

According to the tests, arsenic levels from the Kingston power plant intake canal tested at close to 300 times the allowable amounts in drinking water, while a sample from two miles downstream still revealed arsenic at approximately 30 times the allowed limits. Lead was present at between twice to 21 times the legal drinking water limits, and thallium levels tested at three to four times the allowable amounts.

All water samples were found to contain elevated levels of arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and thallium. The samples were taken from the immediate area of the coal waste spill, in front of the Kingston Fossil plant intake canal just downstream from the spill site, and at a power line crossing two miles downstream from the spill....

Due to the porous topography in the Kingston and Harriman region, well and spring water contamination is one of the primary concerns for nearby populations. “The springs and the well water in that area need to be closely monitored to see if there is any movement of these arsenic compounds and other heavy metals percolating down through the soil into these wells, because the [surface] levels are 300 times higher,” said Tuberty. “That’s a dangerous level.”
The results should not be at all surprising since there was a tremendous amount of toxic waste dumped into the failed impoundment.
The inventory, disclosed by the Tennessee Valley Authority on Monday at the request of The New York Times, showed that in just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems.

And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits.
Unfortunately both the TVA and the EPA have been slow to respond or issue warnings. So far, the only official tests that have been released were taken upstream from the spill, on the Tennessee River rather than the Emory River. Plus there has been no public release of soil or groundwater tests. The public has a right to know whether or not their water is toxic, so the two agencies ought to release the tests as soon as possible.