Aerial image of Kingston ash slide, 23 Dec 2008. TVA

The disastrous coal ash spill that occurred a year ago at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston power plant in eastern Tennessee dumped a whopping 2.66 million pounds of 10 toxic pollutants into the nearby Emory and Clinch rivers — more than all the surface-water discharges from all U.S. power plants in 2007.

That’s one of the findings of a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project based on toxics release inventory data filed by TVA with the Environmental Protection Agency. The 10 pollutants are arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, vanadium and zinc — chemicals that have been linked to cancer, neurological disorders and other serious health problems.

The report’s release came in time for the hearing scheduled for today by the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment on the progress of the ash spill’s cleanup.

“We believe the data makes a very strong case for EPA action on coal ash ponds,” EIP Director Eric Schaeffer said during a telephone press conference held yesterday to announce the findings.

TVA operates coal ash ponds covering nearly 3,000 acres at its other plants in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee — four of which the EPA rates as “high hazard,” meaning a failure like the one at Kingston would likely kill people.

As noted in the EIP chart below, the Kingston spill released into the rivers 140,000 pounds of arsenic — more than twice the amount discharged into waterways from all U.S. power plants in the previous year. A potent poison, arsenic has been linked to cancers of the skin, liver, bladder and lungs as well as to cardiovascular, skin and neurological problems.

The spill also dumped into the Emory nearly 640,000 pounds of vanadium, which when ingested at relatively high levels by animals has been associated with kidney and liver damage as well as birth defects in offspring. Vanadium is among the pollutants in coal ash that can build up in the food chain.

The 2.66 million pounds of pollutants dumped into the Emory by the 2008 ash spill disaster is 45 times greater than the 59,000 pounds of those same pollutants the Kingston plant put into the river in 2007. …

New data paints a more toxic picture of TVA coal ash spill, dredging cleanup works estimated at $1 billion



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