The Tennessee Valley Authority is in the final stages of the Kingston recovery project. The public utility says it’s fulfilling a promise to restore the area surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant near Harriman following the coal ash spill in December 2008, the largest ash spill in U.S. history.
A major milestone was reached in early December, with the completion of the cover for a 240-acre permanent ash retention landfill. The new landfill, which has been fortified with an underground earthquake-resistant wall anchored in bedrock, is covered by a flexible-membrane liner and geo-composite fabric, two feet of clay, topsoil, and grass.
“We all know this incident shouldn’t have happened,” said TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson, who visited the recovery site on December 17. “But we have learned from it and we are fulfilling our commitment to making it right.”
TVA says it’s also keeping its promise by returning the Emory River and surrounding waterways to pre-spill conditions, reforesting and adding vegetation to surrounding land, stabilizing shorelines, and adding wetlands and other wildlife habitats. TVA has opened Lakeshore Park, which features 32 acres of walking trails, fishing piers, a boat ramp, and docks.
“I’m extremely proud of the Kingston team for accomplishing this major undertaking,” Johnson said. “They have kept safety at the forefront and completed this significant project on schedule.”
Johnson added that this monumental project could not have been achieved without the hard work and dedication of the Kingston recovery workforce, the regulatory guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the support and input from the Roane County elected officials, the Community Advisory Group, and the public.
Protecting public health and the environment has been a priority throughout the project. Following the spill, TVA partnered with EPA and TDEC to analyze thousands of air and water samples to confirm that the air and water continue to meet public health standards. TVA also funded and partnered with a number of federal and state agencies and universities to conduct a two-year, $40 million comprehensive study of the Emory River. This effort resulted in the development and implementation of a long-term monitoring plan that will assess the ecological health of the river system for up to 30 years.
In addition, TVA has dedicated 130 acres and invested nearly $10 million in the restoration of the Swan Pond community, pledged $43 million to support educational and economic development initiatives in Roane County, and donated more than $500,000 worth of surplus material to the Roane County Highway Department.
Over the next few months, TVA will be doing general site clean-up, paving the last section of walking trails, and preparing the land it is licensing to Roane County for development of a multi-use ball field. In the spring of 2015, TVA will submit a final completion report to the EPA and TDEC for review and approval.
The Kingston project costs of about $1.1 billion remain within original estimates. TVA is recovering these costs through electric rates and from insurance claim settlements of more than $267 million.
The legacy of the Kingston project extends beyond the local community.
“TVA has demonstrated that it is the industry leader in the safe and responsible storage of coal by-products,” Johnson said.
TVA has committed up to $2 billion to convert all of its ash and gypsum ponds from wet to dry storage at each of its coal plants. Over the past six years, TVA has shared a variety of scientific studies, research data, and lessons learned with other utilities, research institutes and the public on coal ash, human health, and the environment.
Note: This is a lighted edited version of a press release submitted by TVA. See previous stories on the coal ash spill here.