Kingston Ash Landfill Changes Fraught with Concerns

Guest Blog | December 30, 2014 | Coal, Energy Policy
The Kingston fossil plant is the site of the nation's largest coal ash disaster. Now TVA considers changes to a landfill permit that could further endanger the surrounding water and soil.

December 30th marked the end of a public comment period around a draft permit for storage of coal ash waste at TVA’s Kingston plant in East Tennessee – the very location of the coal ash tragedy of six years ago. The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC), who must decide to grant or deny TVA’s landfill permit for coal ash storage, held a public hearing in the Roane County Courthouse December 9 to allow the public to voice any concerns with the proposed permit. SACE staff attended this public hearing and spoke to the audience about our concerns — find a copy of SACE’s comments at the public hearing here.

Together with our partner organizations, Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment, the Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice, we filed an extensive set of comments outlining our numerous concerns with the proposed landfill permit. Read on for highlights of our comments and click here for our press release. The Knoxville News Sentinel also ran a story on our opposition.

Kingston Landfill Comment Highlights

  • Currently the landfill will be located over karst topography, meaning area that has significant sinkholes and is generally unstable. A bedrock contour diagram of the area suggests many areas where there is a potential of sinkhole collapse. TVA already had a catastrophic dropout in 2010, during excavation of the landfill. This dropout was so rapid, it caused a vortex in the waste and resulted in contamination to the Clinch River. It is highly likely that TVA would experience another dropout if allowed to move forward with this landfill as is. We urged TDEC to reject this permit and force TVA to find a more suitable location for this landfill.
  • Groundwater monitoring requirements in the draft permit are wholly inadequate and do not require monitoring of coal ash constituents. TVA’s failure to include monitoring for these toxic metals is nonsensical, especially given the fact that TVA has tested for coal ash constituents previously at this site. Furthermore, state solid waste regulations strongly encourage monitoring for coal ash constituents. Given the history of coal ash contamination caused by waste at the Kingston plant, it makes no sense for TDEC to allow TVA to operate this landfill without adequate groundwater monitoring requirements.
  • The draft permit contains variances that pose a significant threat to the surrounding surface and groundwater.  TDEC should not allow TVA to store bulk liquids in this landfill, a practice that is usually illegal for Class II landfills. Allowing storage of liquids in this landfill would increase likelihood of drop-outs. Additionally, TVA is requesting a variance to allow waste in the landfill to encroach on wetlands. TDEC should allow this variance as there is no way to ensure that toxic seepage won’t contaminate groundwater.
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