On February 12, the Tennessee Valley Authority board met for the first time since the December 22, 2008 collapse of an earthen damn at their Kingston Fossil Plant. The collapse allowed 1.1 billion gallons of toxin-filled coal ash waste to pour over some 300 acres of farm and residential land and into two local rivers. (See “Worst coal ash spill in US history ruins huge area in Tennessee”)
In a press release, TVA stated, “Current estimates on clean-up costs range from $525 million to $825 million, depending on the method of ash disposal that is assumed. The range does not include costs for items such as regulatory actions, litigation or long-term environmental remediation.”
TVA President Tom Kilgore said the spill was worse than the agency’s public relations staff initially had suggested. “It was a ‘catastrophe,” he said, contradicting an internal talking-points memo, obtained by the Associated Press, in which the description of the disaster had been changed from “catastrophic” to a “sudden accidental” release, apparently to make it sound less devastating.
The same memo had also been edited to remove “risk to public health and risk to the environment” as a reason for measuring water quality, and eliminated a reference to the potential of an “acute threat” to fish.
After a much smaller blowout in a different section of the coal-fired Kingston power plant’s massive wet-storage landfill in late 2003, and a subsequent TVA investigation, several repair alternatives were suggested ranging in cost from $480,000 to $25 million. TVA chose to ignore their own report and addressed the 2003 leak as well as ones in 2006 and in 2007 with cheaper—and far less effective—methods.
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