The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently signed an enforceable agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to oversee the removal of coal ash at the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in Roane County, Tenn., where more than 5 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled. Under the order, EPA will oversee the cleanup, and TVA will reimburse EPA for its oversight costs. 

The change in oversight is designed to ensure that response actions necessary to protect public health and welfare and the environment are carried out at Kingston, while also providing a structured approach to community involvement in the clean-up. 

The order requires that TVA perform a comprehensive cleanup of coal ash from the Emory River and surrounding areas. On Dec. 22, 2008, a dike at an impoundment for coal ash failed, releasing approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into a branch of the Emory River and its tributaries as well as onto almost 300 acres of adjacent land.

TVA’s work will be subject to review and approval by EPA, in consultation with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), to ensure full compliance with the Superfund law. Once the removal of the ash is complete, TVA will be required to assess any remaining contamination to determine whether additional actions may be needed.

Coal ash at the site contains arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc, which are hazardous substances as defined under Superfund. The terms of the order require that the disposal of coal ash from the spill meet specific protective disposal standards for landfills, such as synthetic liners, leachate collection systems and groundwater monitoring.

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