U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for coal combustion products released on Friday are consistent with work the Tennessee Valley Authority has already done at the Kingston recovery project, the public utility said in a press release.
“TVA is already making substantial changes in the way we work with coal combustion products, including coal ash and gypsum, said TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson. “This included committing an estimated $2 billion to convert all our coal fleet impoundments from wet to dry storage. While recognizing the significant potential for beneficial reuse of ash and other products, we agree it needs to be handled and stored safely.”
The project area surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant near Harriman is in the final restoration stage following the coal ash spill in December 2008. It was the largest ash spill in U.S. history.
TVA said the recovery project reached a major milestone 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, the press release said.
“We all know this incident shouldn’t have happened,” Johnson said. “But we have learned from it and we are fulfilling our commitment to making it right.”
The press release said TVA is 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.”
In the press release, 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.
TVA said that 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,” the release said. “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, the press release said.
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.
Kingston project costs of about $1.1 billion remain within original estimates, the release said. TVA is recovering these costs through electric rates and from insurance claim settlements of more than $267 million.
TVA said 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.
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.