Loudon County residents to discuss fly ash

Panel to hear concerns about accepting sludge in Loudon landfill

Loudon County residents opposed to the dumping of coal fly ash in the local landfill will get a chance to have their views heard before the county's Solid Waste Commission this week.

The SWC will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday 7/14 at the Courthouse Annex to listen to residents' concerns and to vote on whether to accept coal fly ash from the December 2008 spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant into the Matlock Bend landfill.

"I don't think anything has been decided yet," said Steve Fields, chairman of the seven-person SWC.

Fields, a geologist and environmental compliance expert at ORNL, said that although he can't speak for the rest of the commission, he is leaning away from allowing the TVA waste in the Loudon landfill. "My sense is to not accept it," he said.

A storage pond at the TVA plant collapsed Dec. 22, sending 5.4 million cubic yards of toxin-laden sludge into the Emory River and surrounding area. A landfill in Alabama has agreed to take train shipments from the spill, and Matlock Bend is one of four Tennessee landfills approved for limited test runs.

In addition to concerns about heavy metals, Fields said available landfill space is an issue. Once Matlock Bend is full, the county will have to build another landfill, he said. The county also has plans to use methane gas from the landfill to generate electricity. The disposal of large quantities of fly ash could reduce the amount of methane produced at the site, he said.

According to Fields, Santec, the company that operates the landfill for the county, did not inform the commission in advance that there was a possibility of accepting the coal fly ash from TVA. The landfill already accepts fly ash from different sources, including the Kimberly Clark plant in Loudon, he said.

"The line that we are trying to walk is, how you bring in enough waste to make the landfill pay for itself," Fields said.

The commission has the authority to prohibit certain types of waste from the landfill, including those that are deemed hazardous by the EPA, Fields said.

State Representative Jimmy Matlock said he has been in contact with State Sen. Randy McNally about the landfill issue. Both have contacted the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for more information, he said. Matlock said he hopes the issue can be decided on a local level with the help of the SWC.