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Kingston Ash Release

Frequently Asked Questions

Updated May 26, 2009

Is Kingston a Superfund site?
What is fly ash?

Is fly ash dangerous?
Is the water safe?
Is the air safe?
Is the soil safe?
What else is being done to maintain public health and safety?
What oversight is planned of cleanup efforts?
How much fly ash was released and where?
How many people are affected?
What is TVA doing to help the people with damage?
What is TVA doing now to repair the site?
What are TVA’s future plans for site recovery?
Where is Kingston located?
How do the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee flow together?
Is the plant still operating?
What is being done to prevent similar occurrences elsewhere?
Where can I get more information?

 

Is Kingston a Superfund site?

  • “Superfund” and “CERCLA” are often used as shorthand for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.  While the Kingston site is being cleaned up under CERCLA, it is not on the National Priorities List nor is Superfund money being used to clean it up.

What is fly ash?

  • Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal. It is a gray powder with a consistency similar to flour. It is made up mostly of silica, similar to sand. Though the ash itself is inert, it may also contain other substances that occur naturally in coal, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium. It is used in many building products like cement, mortar, stucco, and grout, and as filler for road beds. It also is used in some potting soils and as a soil conditioner.

Is fly ash dangerous?

  • Contact with wet coal fly ash does not present a serious health risk. Direct skin contact may cause localized irritation and breathing small amounts of fly ash for a short period of time is unlikely to be a health concern. Washing affected areas and removing and washing clothing are simple steps to take to remove the irritation.
  • Breathing airborne particulates including fly ash over long periods of time can irritate the respiratory system. People with existing lung diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should avoid breathing coal fly ash dust.

Is the water safe?

  • EPA Region IV, TDEC, and TVA crews have been conducting water sampling and assessing the quality of public drinking water supplies, private wells, river water (both near the ash slide and at multiple downstream locations), and local springs. Each agency is using certified laboratories for their analyses.
    All EPA, TDEC, and TVA water treatment facility sampling results from Rockwood, Harriman, Cumberland, and Kingston continue to meet water quality standards for drinking water. All of the more than 100 private groundwater wells tested by TDEC
    also meet drinking water standards. Get More Info

Is the air safe?

  • More than 44,000 mobile air monitoring samples taken by TVA as of mid-May confirm the TDH finding that“the particulate matter and metals measured in air near the site are below national and state standards or are less than any levels of concern.” There is no indication of health concerns for area residents or workers. TVA, along with TDEC and the U.S.
    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently added additional stationary air monitors. Read More

Is the soil safe?

  • Extensive nationwide studies of coal ash in recent decades have provided a body of scientific literature that gives the expected ranges for concentrations of metals in the ash. Testing of the Kingston ash samples shows that such concentrations are well below the limits for classification as a hazardous waste. The data shows that the concentrations
    of most metals in the ash are within the range of concentrations found in natural soils in Tennessee or background levels in soils in the local area. Much of what TVA has found falls in the low end of those ranges and is more like Tennessee soil. The only exceptions are that two of the 47 samples collected by TVA had thallium levels slightly higher (by about 10 percent) than the range found in Tennessee soils.
    The overall average for thallium in the ash falls right in the middle of the range for that element in Tennessee soil.

  • Ash samples, as well as a sample of soil from an unaffected area, were taken on December 29 and 30 in the Kingston area and analyzed for radioactivity. The final analysis confirms the conclusion that the radioactive material present is mostly naturally occurring and is similar to what would normally be found in soil in the Tennessee Valley area. It is also representative of what would be expected in coal ash.
    Read More

What else is being done to maintain public health and safety?

  • To address potential health issues, residents with medical issues that they believe are associated with the ash spill are referred to the local office of the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) at the Roane County Health Department. TVA also has contracted with Ridgeview Psychiatric Clinic for those individuals in the affected area who would like to talk with a
    mental health professional about what they have experienced.
  • TVA is developing a plan to respond to individual health concerns, including a process for determining whether there are health effects that may be related to the ash released from Kingston. We have contracted with Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) to provide community members and the
    local medical community with access to medical and toxicology experts who have experience and knowledge in the health effects related to contaminants in the ash. ORAU is a consortium of 100 universities that collaborate to advance scientific research and education. It has expertise in public
    health communication, design of medical monitoring programs, and independent verification of the cleanup of contaminated sites. Details on how to access these medical experts will be coming soon from ORAU.
  • TDH and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) have informed the Kingston community that public and private water supplies are currently not impacted by the ash, that the amounts of particulate matter and metals in the air meet all standards and are below levels of health concern, and that occasional exposure to the coal ash should not be a health hazard. Please see the TDH Fly Ash
    Release fact sheet, updated February 13, 2009, posted
    on the TDH Web site.

What oversight is planned of cleanup efforts?

  • Local, state and federal agencies responded to the coal ash release at Kingston immediately and set up an integrated recovery project organization.
  • The recovery project center is located on the plant site close to the ash storage area. TDEC and EPA continue to have staff at the site to carry on oversight and independent testing.
  • TDEC continues to sample air, soil and ash, river water, drinking water intakes and treated drinking water so that any potential areas of concern can be recognized and responded to quickly.

How much fly ash was released and where?

  • TVA’s latest estimate is that about 5.4 million cubic yards of ash escaped. This ash and water spread over about half a square mile adjacent to the plant. Some flowed into the Emory River, which is a tributary of the Clinch River and Watts Bar Reservoir. And some covered portions of nearby Swan Pond Road, Swan Pond Circle, and the railroad tracks by which coal is supplied to the plant.

How many people are affected?

  • TVA has worked with more than 750 families so far on questions, concerns, and property damage claims. The property damage ranges from debris on lawns to three homes that were rendered uninhabitable because of structural damage. It was very good news that no one was injured.

What is TVA doing to help the people whose homes or property were damaged?

  • TVA officials have assured the public that TVA will fix the damages caused by the spill. TVA is developing a long-term plan for full recovery and restoration. Short-term actions also are under way:
  • Immediately after the incident, TVA provided hotel rooms, meals, water, transportation and other support to ensure residents’ immediate needs were met.
  • TVA assigned teams of employees and retirees to provide one point of contact for each of the homeowners in the affected areas to address their concerns and provide support.
  • TVA set up an outreach center at 509 N. Kentucky Street in Kingston for residents to file claims or meet with an outreach team about issues and concerns. The center is open Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 865‑632‑1700. TVA also has a toll-free number, 800‑257‑2675, for property owners to call if they need an assessment of property damages.
  • TVA has purchased more than 100 properties to date. TVA may purchase additional property that is directly affected by the remediation efforts moving forward. TVA is committed to ensuring that Roane County property tax revenues will not be negatively affected by the purchase of these properties.

What is TVA doing now to repair the site?

  • An important step in the recovery of the Kingston site is Phase I dredging to remove ash from the Emory River channel. TVA’s Phase I dredging plan was submitted to TDEC and EP A and approved by both agencies on March 19, 2009.

    A pilot study was conducted during Phase I dredging to determine the processing capacity for full-scale dredging, how the ash would move during the process, and the effectiveness of TVA’s dredging strategies. Dredging officially began on March 19, and more than 156,000 cubic yards of ash have been
    removed from the Emory River as of mid-May. The primary equipment used in the dredging process is hydraulic dredges. Mechanical clamshells are also being used to remove debris from the water. Both types of equipment are being operated in a way that minimizes water turbidity, or cloudiness. Continuous
    water quality monitoring and routine water sampling and analyses will continue to be conducted throughout the dredging process.
  • TVA has coordinated efforts with the Roane County Highway Department, and we appreciate its work on roads affected by the spill. Hassler Mill, Swan Pond Circle, and Swan Pond Road are all now open to the public. The rail line initially covered by the ash spill was cleared in January.
  • TVA is taking measures to reduce the amount of airborne dust that may arise from the ash. To minimize dust and erosion, the undisturbed portion of the ash cell is being treated with Flexterra, a liquid dust suppression agent, composed primarily of wood fibers. This is a temporary measure for controlling dust and erosion while long-term recovery efforts continue.
  • TVA has used a variety of methods to remove cenospheres from the water. Skimmer booms have been placed in the water to contain the particles on the surface of the water. Vacuum trucks on barges, backhoes, and hand tools have then been used to remove the cenospheres from the water surface. Trucks transport the recovered cenospheres to holding cells adjacent to the settling pond on the Kingston plant site.
    Read More.

What are TVA’s future plans for site recovery?

  • This summer, we will reach some additional key milestones in the recovery effort. Dredging of the Emory River continues, and we will soon begin transporting the ash off-site to an approved
    Class 1 landfill. With the help of area residents, we will develop a Community Involvement Plan.

    This Plan will provide the framework for how TVA will involve the public in decisions relating to the cleanup of the ash release on land and in the Swan Pond embayment, and the eventual use of the land after the cleanup. The Roane County Long-Term Recovery Committee has played an important role in
    representing the community’s interests over the past five months. We thank them for working with us, and we look forward to even more progress in the coming months.

    We also will be providing reports to the Kingston community to keep you informed as our work proceeds.

Where is Kingston located?

  • Kingston Fossil Plant is about 35 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee, at the junction of the Emory and Clinch Rivers near Kingston, Tennessee. It is one of TVA’s larger fossil plants, generating enough electricity to supply the needs of about 670,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley region. The plant began operation in 1955.

How do the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee flow together?

  • As shown on the map linked at right, the Emory River flows into the Clinch River at Clinch River mile (CRM) 4.3, and the Clinch River subsequently flows into the Tennessee River at Tennessee River mile (TRM) 567.5.  River miles are numbered from the mouth of each river, beginning at mile zero and increasing upstream.  TVA's  Kingston power plant ocMap Thumbnailcupies a peninsula between the Clinch and Emory Rivers, withthe cooling water intake located at Emory River mile (ERM) 1.9. The ash slide entered the Emory River at about mile (ERM) 2.1.   Watts Bar Dam lies several miles downstream on the Tennessee at (TRM) 530.  Click on the thumbnail map to see a larger map of the junctions of the three rivers.

Is the plant still operating?

  • The plant itself is not affected by the ash release and continues to operate. With the repair of the rail line that was damaged by the release, normal coal deliveries to the plant have resumed.

What is being done to prevent similar occurrences elsewhere?

  • Staff at TVA’s 10 other fossil plants have made visual inspections of the containment dikes to note any changes in conditions. TVA has hired an independent engineering consulting company to perform an in-depth analysis of the root cause of the ash spill. The results of that study will be made public and we will share lessons learned with regulators and others in the industry for everyone’s benefit.

Where can I get more information?

  • TVA is posting the latest information on this Web site.

Page Updated December 5, 2013 1:41 PM

 

 

           
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