TVA approves test of landfills for ash

Sites will receive 5-10 truckloads of sludge from spill

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has approved test runs of four area Class I landfills for the disposal of fly ash from the Dec. 22 spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant.

In a statement issued Wednesday, TDEC spokeswoman Tisha Calabrese-Benton said TVA would be permitted to send five to 10 truckloads of ash to each landfill under the agreement. The failure of a disposal pond at the Kingston power plant dumped 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash sludge - enough to fill 450,000 dump trucks - into the Emory River and surrounding countryside.

The Class I landfills are equipped with liners, leachate collections systems and monitoring wells, Calabrese-Benton said.

"Approval of the test does not necessarily mean the landfill will be utilized, even for the test," Calabrese-Benton said. "TVA must provide the department with advance notice prior to any test commencing. This gives the department the opportunity to contact local officials and to have inspectors at the receiving site."

The four landfills approved for the limited test runs are Chestnut Ridge in Knox County, Matlock Bend in Loudon County, Volunteer Regional in Scott County and Meadow Branch in McMinn County.

Calabrese-Benton said TVA would have to provide transportation and management plans if the federal utility proposes additional ash disposal at any of the sites. TDEC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would have to sign off on any disposal plan.

TVA spokesman John Moulton said TVA has yet to develop a truck transportation plan.

"We've been focusing on rail because we think that's the most expedient way to get the ash off site," he said. "As we increase the rate of dredging, we're going to explore other disposal options."

Moulton said TVA has recovered 327,692 cubic yards - about 6 percent of the total - since dredging began on a limited basis in March. TVA has proposed shipping ash by rail to landfills in Alabama and Georgia. Also in the mix as a possible disposal site is a strip mine in Cumberland County.