Loudon residents fight against ash disposal

TVA OK'd for test dumping at Matlock Bend site

Loudon County residents are speaking out against the possible disposal of coal fly ash waste from the Roane County spill in the Matlock Bend landfill.

"TVA tells people not to drink or play in the water near the spill because of the fly ash and its unknown health hazards, yet we are going to bring it here," said Loudon resident Wendy Baustian.

Baustian lives within a few miles of the landfill. She said she has been contacting county officials to find out what needs to be done to prevent the landfill from accepting the ash waste.

"I guess I better contact Erin Brockovitch's firm regarding this as well," she said, referring to the prominent activist who works with a firm involved in one of seven lawsuits pending in federal court over the spill.

The Matlock Bend landfill is located in the district represented by County Commissioner Nancy Marcus. Marcus said she is also concerned about the possible health hazards associated with the disposal of the ash.

The Solid Waste Task Force that regulates the landfill operates independently and did not inform the county commission about the possibility of the ash being disposed of in the county, she said.

"I just found out about it," Marcus said. "I'm going to be making some calls."

The Dec. 22 failure of a storage pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash into the Emory River and surrounding countryside. TVA, under the oversight of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has begun dredging the sludge out of the river as the first part of a cleanup that could cost close to $1 billion and take years to complete.

The Matlock Bend facility is one of four Class I landfills in East Tennessee that TVA and TDEC have selected for limited test deposits of the coal combustion waste. The others are Chestnut Ridge in Knox County, Volunteer Regional in Scott County and Meadow Branch in McMinn County.

The Class I landfills are equipped with liners, leachate collections systems and monitoring wells. TDEC and EPA would have to sign off on any transportation and management plans. TVA officials say there is no plan in place to use any of the four sites.

TVA has already received approval to ship ash via rail to a landfill in Alabama. TVA built two new rail spurs to the Kingston plant and the utility says one 85-car train will leave the site every day. Plans are to increase the train size to 110 cars per train.

State Rep. Jimmy Matlock said he has been receiving calls from concerned residents. Matlock said he would be consulting with other local and state officials and expected to have more information by next week.

Pat Hunter said she remembers that when the landfill was created, it was supposed to be used only for waste generated in the county. The county later made the decision to accept out-of-county waste as a means of generating revenue.

She said she is disturbed by the notion that the county might be taking in hazardous material just to generate revenue. "Whatever they're paying to dump that stuff, it's not worth it," Hunter said.

Eileen Longmire has been involved in the controversy over the landfill since 1983. She lives just one mile from the landfill and was one of the first members of the landfill commission.

"I opposed it at that time because the place was full of sinkholes," she said.

Longmire's home uses well water. She said she is concerned that fly ash contains heavy metals such as cadmium. The landfill is also located near the Tennessee National development where new residents are paying a premium price for land, she said.

"Out property values are going to plummet," she said "Why would they even think of bringing that kind of waste into our county?"

The county also faces long-term liability associated with the landfill. In addition to the cost of creating new landfill areas once the current space is full, the county maintains liability for 30 years. "Our neck is in the noose for another 30 years," she said.