Report: TVA Could Have Prevented Coal Ash Spill
There's big news out of Tennessee today - the Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority released a report saying the TVA could have prevented last December's devastating coal ash spill near Harriman.
From the report:
Pretty damning news. If you remember, December's coal ash spill happened at the Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant (a coal-fired power plant) when a dam failed and released more than 540 million gallons of coal ash across 400 acres, destroying 26 homes, and contaminating nearby waterways - including a river that provides drinking water for communities downstream and popular fishing holes for many anglers.
UPDATE: Sorry I didn't include this before, but if you want to read the TVA Inspector General's testimony to the House Subcommittee on Water Resources to the Environment (which is where he outlines the TVA faults), click here for the PDF. The full 111-page report from the IG is available here (PDF).
Anyway, the real damning news here is that the IG points out a problem we've been trying to raise awareness around for some time now: Treating coal ash as toxic waste and not as simple "garbage." From the IG's testimony:
The TVA culture at fossil plants relegated ash to the status of garbage at a landfill rather than treating it as a potential hazard to the public and the environment. We believe this culture resulted in management failures which contributed to the Kingston Spill.
Coal ash contains some nasty toxic substances, including arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium and more. Want that in your drinking water? Or in your nearby fishing holes? I don't think so.
Back to the original post....
The report from the Inspector General adds that if TVA doesn't take care, this same tragedy could happen at its other coal ash waste ponds in the state.
This is all yet another reminder of not only why we need regulation of coal combustion waste (PDF fact sheet) (which is what coal ash is), but why we also need to transition away from coal and toward clean energy. Coal is dirty from the beginning to the end of its life cycle. We can do better.