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Kingston Ash Release

Kingston Ash Recovery and the CERCLA Process

Last Updated September 2, 2011

Emergency Response

Immediately after the spill, a Unified Command was established under the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for managing the emergency response. A Homeland Security Directive requires that the National Incident Management System be used in responding to events such as the ash spill. An Incident Command Post (ICP) was staffed by federal, state, and local response organizations.  The Roane County Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Health, the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency worked with TVA at the site to respond to the event.

During the emergency response phase, the first priority was safety of the public and TVA employees.  Work also began to stabilize the ash in place, as did efforts to clear roads and rail lines affected by the spill.  Assessments of air, water, drinking water, and wildlife impacts started immediately. 

Time-Critical Removal Action

Removal of ash from the Emory River was considered to be time-critical because of the potential for ash and its constituents to migrate downstream.  In addition, the presence of ash in the river increased the chances of flooding upstream of the spill and reduced the quality of habitat in the river.

During the time-critical phase, work was approved by an EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) under the authority of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).  Environmental monitoring was performed to assess impacts from the spill and to help minimize impacts from ash-removal activities. Ash was removed from the Emory River and the East Embayment during this phase, with the Emory River reopening on May 29, 2010

Non-Time-Critical Actions

CERCLA non-time-critical (NTC) removal actions are appropriate when a six month or longer planning period is available.  During the non-time-critical phase, plans are reviewed and approved by an EPA Remedial Projects Manager (RPM), with concurrence from TDEC and other agencies. The planning period is used to evaluate different engineering solutions and their costs, along with the human health and environmental risks of each possible solution. Results of the evaluations are presented in an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) report. 

In 2009-2010, an EE/CA was prepared for ash removal from the Swan Pond Embayment and closure of the former dredge cell. Another EE/CA will be completed in 2012 that evaluates remediation options for residual ash in the Emory and Clinch Rivers.  Much of the environmental monitoring and research being performed at Kingston is to develop a Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA) and a Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment (BERA). Each evaluates risks for possible solutions considered in the second EE/CA.  

The HHRA and BERA began with the development of a Sampling and Analysis Plan (SAP).  The SAP focused on potential effects that could develop over long periods of time, like bioaccumulation and toxicity.  Sampling of ash deposits, ash and sediment pore waters, submerged sediments, seasonally‐exposed sediments, surface waters, ground water, benthic invertebrates, fish, wildlife, and aquatic vegetation started in May, 2010, and extended through August, 2011.  The HHRA and BERA for the second EE/CA will be completed in the spring of 2012.

Regulatory Time Line

December 22, 2008.  Ash spill and establishment of Unified Command under NIMS with EPA as lead federal agency.

January 11, 2009.  Transition from emergency phase to long-term recovery; EPA transferred lead federal agency role to TVA with oversight from EPA. (memo).

January 12, 2009.  Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued a Commissioner’s Order  requiring a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) for clean-up of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant ash spill.

May 11, 2009.  TVA and EPA issued an agreement for continuing clean-up under CERCLA with EPA oversight. (TVA press release) (Administrative Order and Agreement on Consent) (Full Text of CERCLA, as amended)

May 18, 2010.  Alternative 3B approved for restoration of Swan Pond Embayment and stabilization and closure of the former dredge cell as non-time-critical actions (Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis).  Action Memorandum approved same day.

May 29, 2010.  Emory River reopened

July 7, 2010.  Final time-critical dredging completed.

December 1, 2010.  The last train shipment of recovered coal ash was sent to the EPA-approved Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, AL.

August 30, 2011.  EPA deemed the northern-most portion of the North Embayment as clean.  Natural spring water began to fill the area for the first time since the clean up began.

Spring 2012.  Projected completion of HHRA and BERA.

Summer 2012.  Projected river EE/CA completion.



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