Kingston Residents Gather and Call for New Public Hearing on Proposed Coal Ash Landfill

Guest Blog | February 6, 2015 | Coal, Energy Policy

To read supplemental comments on the proposed landfill submitted by environmental groups Feb. 9, 2015, click here.

Thursday night, February 5th, more than 30 local residents of Kingston, TN joined together at the Kingston Community Center to attend an event hosted by Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM).  The purpose of the event was to educate community members about the proposed major modification to a landfill permit that would allow for storage of gypsum, coal ash and other coal waste residuals at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal plant.  The community members, still reeling from the 2008 Kingston coal ash disaster, shared their frustration with what they felt was a failure by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to give adequate notice for the official public hearing on the landfill permit, which took place on December 9, 2014.  Residents are calling for a new public hearing, that will allow them the opportunity to learn more about TVA and TDEC’s plans for the new Kingston landfill and voice their concerns with what they view as a dangerous new proposal.

Although TDEC has extended the public comment period previously, residents claim that the lack of notice surrounding the first public hearing has left them feeling out of the loop and ignored by an agency that should be protecting their water, property and health.  The current public comment period for the landfill permit ends February 9, but residents are working to extend that comment period and are requesting a new public hearing.  Many are alarmed that the proposed landfill would be sited over an area with known sinkholes and on land that has already suffered a devastating subsurface collapse during excavation in December 2010. (To read detailed comments outlining the issues with TVA’s proposed landfill permit, you can read coalition comments submitted by SACE here).

Wiht a show of hands, only 3 residents acknowledge seeing the notice for the Dec. 9 TDEC Public Hearing

At the start of the meeting, members of the Kingston Community Action Group, a group comprised of impacted local residents set up in response to the 2008 disaster, shared their concerns on the lack of communication from TDEC and TVA about the proposed landfill.  One member of the group expressed exasperation with TVA and TDEC, stating that he was “worn out with meetings and hearings that have lasted 6 years and have not resolved local concerns.”  The group then screened Working Film’s “Coal Ash Stories” that highlight the struggles of communities living near coal plants who are suffering the negative effects of coal ash pollution.  The film was put together through a partnership with Appalachian VoicesEarthjustice, the North Carolina Conservation NetworkNC WARN, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and nineteen local organizations.

SOCM Exec. Director, Ann League, (foreground) and SACE Southeast Energy Research Attorney, Angela Garrone, (background) facilitate discussion on the proposed Kingston permit with community members.

The meeting ended with an almost one-hour discussion of the proposed landfill, facilitated by SOCM staff and Angela Garrone, SACE’s Southeast Energy Research Attorney, who works on TVA coal issues.  The discussion centered on the failure of the proposed permit to comply with current state regulations as well as with EPA’s newly released federal coal ash rule.  Along with the fact that the new landfill would be sited over unstable group with known sinkholes, the permit also lacks adequate monitoring for coal ash pollutants, includes improper variances that threaten groundwater and surface water resources and an inadequate drop-out mitigation plan, among other issues.

Most importantly, the original proposed permit was for storage of gypsum only.  The current permit includes a major modification that would allow not only gypsum, but also more toxic fly ash and bottom ash along with other coal combustion residuals.  Both fly ash and bottom ash contain toxic heavy metals, like arsenic, lead, boron and selenium, that can migrate into water supplies through leaching or seeps.  As documented by the Environmental Integrity Project, all of TVA’s coal ash sites, across 3 states, have contaminated groundwater caused by leaching and other contamination pathways.

We must wait and see if Kingston community members get the comment extension and public hearing they are asking for from TDEC.  We will continue to update you on the progress of this landfill as we continue to fight to protect communities from the dangers of coal ash.

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