Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | December 29, 2008

Environmental lawyer Sanders says U.S. EPA on scene at TVA’s billion gallon spill at Kingston power plant.

U.S. EPA Region 4 continues to assist in Harriman, Tennessee as part of the Unified Command response operation for the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash release. Unified Command consists of EPA, the Roane County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), Tennessee EMA, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.


It is estimated that approximately 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash and water were released on to land adjacent to the plant and into the nearby Clinch and Emory Rivers on Monday, December 22, 2008. The initial release of materials from the plant’s retention pond created a tidal wave of water and ash which destroyed several homes and ruptured a major gas line in a neighborhood located adjacent to the plant.

EPA continues to assist in monitoring response operations and reviewing sampling data by TVA. EPA initiated a sampling program on December 23, 2008, which included surface water, sediment and fly ash. Samples were submitted to a laboratory for analysis of total and dissolved metals and total suspended solids.


Current environmental data from surface water sampling indicates that several heavy metals are present in the surface water slightly above drinking water standards in the area of the spill, but not in the area of the Kingston water supply intake. Drinking water standards are designed to be conservative, and results to date are below concentrations EPA knows to be harmful to humans.


One sample of river water out of numerous samples taken indicated an elevated level of arsenic, however arsenic has been found to be naturally occurring in the environment and further investigation is in progress. Arsenic was not detected in samples taken close to the Kingston Water Intake. Unless people regularly drink untreated river water, the arsenic should not cause any adverse health effects. Surface water sample results in the area of the drinking water intakes did not indicate standards exceedances, but sampling will continue.


EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation continue to sample drinking water wells, municipal water, soils, river-water and river sediment. Response officials are currently evaluating the potential for health effects associated with dust from dry fly ash material, and both EPA and TVA have begun monitoring for levels of fly ash in the air.


TVA continues to manage the river flows of the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers to minimize the possibility of water from the plant flowing past the Kingston water supply intake and continues the removal of displaced fly ash.


A hotline for health effects information is being established by the Tennessee Department of Health, in consultation with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The hotline should be operational on December 29, 2008.


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