Dec 22 2008
09:21 am

RoaneViews has more...

UPDATE: KNS, WBIR, WVLT, and this from WATE:

TVA spokesman Gil Francis says the mixture of ash and water contained no hazardous materials.

TVA is lying. This report on combustion waste from coal fired power plants says fly ash (assuming that's what this is) contains mercury, arsenic, and other toxic heavy metals such as beryllium and cadmium. If it's a holding pond for byproducts from washing coal prior to combustion it has even more toxic stuff.

Unfortunately, from what I understand it's all largely unregulated, the EPA does not consider it "hazardous" (which I guess gives TVA cover) and even promotes recycling it to make concrete.

RELATED: Coal's time bomb: Ponds, landfills hold power plant ash laced with poisons

SEE ALSO: Coal Ash Is More Radioactive than Nuclear Waste

UPDATE: A timely press release today from the Environmental Integrity Project:

Fearing even more pollution of precious water supplies with toxic chemicals under a pending Office of Surface Mining (OSM) rule proposal, 39 environmental and grassroots groups are urging President-Elect Barack Obama to protect Americans by imposing meaningful federal regulation of coal combustion waste (CCW). Coal-fired power plants produce approximately 129 million tons of waste per year, making CCW the second largest industrial waste source in the US.

Rachel's picture

TVA now says flyash contains

TVA now says flyash contains heavy metals.


Spouse said he saw his boss's boss (who is in charge of real estate stuff at TVA) in the elevator at lunch. Boss said "I'm on my way to buy some houses."

R. Neal's picture

TVA now says flyash contains

TVA now says flyash contains heavy metals.

Good. It's sort of irresponsible to claim there's no hazardous material. It's most likely a low level risk at this point, but it's not like folks up there should get the idea they should let their kids play in it or be shoveling it out of their homes without taking necessary precautions to prevent exposure.

It looks like there's a chance it will get in streams and rivers and possibly nearby municipal water intakes.

What a disaster. I have a feeling it is much bigger than anyone knows at this point.

reform4's picture

Yes, Virginia..

..flyash always contain some content of heavy metals. How much depends on where it came from (incinerators have a LOT more than coal plants). Flyash is often used in concrete, which is actually a nice way to bind up the heavy metal, versus landfilling it.

Plants with new sulfur scrubbers wanted to dry the slurry and sell it to gypsum plants for use in wallboard, but each shipment has to be tested for metals content- too much and it can't be used in wallboard.

But yes, fly ash contains toxic heavy metals. How much varies a lot from plant to plant (coal type, combustion process, controls, etc). Some say it's not much higher than regular rock/soli, but some wouldn't consider it safe for anything other than mixing in concrete or putting in a regulated lined landfill. Land covered by the slurry may be considered contaminated to a level equal to a superfund site, depending on several variables- but the land probably should be tested.

gonzone's picture

This is bad

There's no other way to put it. Yes, fly ash contains toxic heavy metals and what Bushie's boys say means nothing in regards to the possible uses of the material.

I can't think of one single way that the use of fossil fuels isn't damaging to our environment and as for coal, to the workers who product it. Time to change.

I'd love to see Obama and the new Congress re-charter TVA to lead the way in clean energy, just like they led the way for rural electrification years ago. Time to shut down some old fossils. Most coal plants at TVA were supposed to be retired years ago anyway.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
Hunter S. Thompson

Anonymously Nine's picture

This is insane...

Now flyash contains heavy metals?


During the NRR battle County Commissioners, including one Doctor and one Lumpy, said that the concentration of heavy metals in flyash was of NO concern.

But now it is a problem?

Now it is a problem?

Rachel's picture

I'm no expert at this, but

I'm no expert at this, but let me take a stab at one possible answer:

Flyash may not be much of a problem when it's buried in a landfill, or held in a retention pond.

Wading through flyash sludge in your living room is an entirely different story.

Anonymously Nine's picture

Big event...

400 acres is pretty big. That is a lot of wells and aquifer that could be affected. Isn't this the biggest failure of an earthen dam in this area in a very long time?

rikki's picture

Isn't this the biggest

Isn't this the biggest failure of an earthen dam in this area in a very long time?

That depends on whether you include Inez, Ky. in "this area."

gonzone's picture


But that was a gloriously beknighted by the great invisible hand private company so no problems. If Massey does it, then it has to be good. A river of black goo coming down the holler is exactly what those folks wanted and expected from their Lord and Master.

Coal is nasty from start to finish.

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."
Hunter S. Thompson

Andy Axel's picture

No one could have predicted

No one could have predicted the failure of the sludge levees!

(Meant to link these: (link...) (link...) (link...) It's stuff you don't learn about in history classes.)


Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! Special holidays, Sundays and rates!

Factchecker's picture

Kind of like finding out the Alamo doesn't have a basement

It's stuff you don't learn about in history classes.

Who knew gravity and weird, GW-enhanced weather would team up on the side of evil terrorists?

mitch's picture

Do you grill with charcoal?

Do you eat meat cooked on a charcoal grill?

What do you do with the ashes?

Do you have an SO2 scrubber on your grill?

What is the amount of VOC released from the lighter fluid you use?

How many people grill and throw their ashes on the ground?... how many tons of waste is that?


Andy Axel's picture

I didn't figure it would be

I didn't figure it would be long before the TVA apologists were out in force to sing for their collective supper.

What's the sulfur content of a processed briquette of charcoal versus the same amount of bituminous coal powder?


Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! Special holidays, Sundays and rates!

Factchecker's picture

This is funny

Do you eat meat cooked on a charcoal grill? No.
What do you do with the ashes? n/a
Do you have an SO2 scrubber on your grill? n/a
What is the amount of VOC released from the lighter fluid you use? n/a
How many people grill and throw their ashes on the ground?... how many tons of waste is that?
They don't combine it and literally flood the region with a couple [EDIT: 5.4] million cubic yards of it!

Seems like you'd do a little better blaming TVA customers for "demanding" all the power used to create the ash. But thanks for making good humor of a serious situation. We can always use some levity.

midge's picture


It is always easier to be a critic then it is to be creative.

I work for a solar power company and you I guess are just a consumer of energy, complaining about how you get your drug.

The point was putting it all in perspective..... but that would take an open mind.

WhitesCreek's picture

Charcoal is not coal

It's a wood product. And I roughly estimate that Tennessee uses a little over 10,000 cubic yards of charcoal a year. That's raw material so the ash would be much less, say 10%? That's 1000 cubic yards of charcoal ash dumped into the environment in Tennessee by backyard enviro criminals. That's about 50 truckloads, which would take about four hours to haul away if we ran a truck every five minutes. At the same rate working 24 and 7 it will take nearly five years to deal with the TVA mess.

Isn't simple arithmetic fun? Don't you wish people would think before they post?

And hey, check my numbers and tell me what you think... I estimated wildly. USA consumption of charcoal is 1,038,000 tons.

R. Neal's picture

I use gas.

I use gas.

redmondkr's picture

Try to forgive us midge for

Try to forgive us midge for sucking up your oxygen. I have a small farm that produces enough so I can share some with you.

Visit us at

The Home

flyoversam's picture

Sacrifices are your duty

Obama said there are going to have to be sacrifices made in our nation. Great governmental firms like TVA are the form of the future, with the nationalizing of our banks and automakers underway. We need responsible journalists to report what is provided to them by the TVA press managers, not irresponsible rogues who jeopardize the public image of an autonomous, unregulated government-run operation. Granted, a few citizens will suffer and children may die of toxic exposure, but we must remember that the Change President Obama brings is for the greater good of the majority at the necessary expense of the minority.

Lord knows Fannie and Freddie have made this difficult enough, leading more than a few journalists down the path of asking uncomfortable questions about government corporations that are exempt from the regulations placed upon the private sector. As this is the model of the future, we don't need any more issues raised in the public eye.

Please get back to the agenda of blaming Bush for a failed Iraq policy (please note: this will change to a VICTORY in Iraq when Barack shows up there next week and remarkably creates peace and cooperation through his magnetic personality, compelling all of our enemies to change heart and join in peace with us). Also, I noticed there were insufficient "economy teetering into depression" stories on the Knoxviews site which is in clear violation of the Biden memo sent out to the media. We must set that expectation, people, so that we can report a dramatic upturn in Q2 2009 (without having to actually manage an economy). Get with the program!

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