Kingston Ash Release
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated May 26, 2009
Is Kingston a Superfund site?
What is fly ash?
Is fly ash dangerous?
Is the water safe?
Is the air safe?
Is the soil safe?
What else is being done to maintain public health and safety?
What oversight is planned of cleanup efforts?
How much fly ash was released and where?
How many people are affected?
What is TVA doing to help the people with damage?
What is TVA doing now to repair the site?
What are TVA’s future plans for site recovery?
Where is Kingston located?
How do the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee flow together?
Is the plant still operating?
What is being done to prevent similar occurrences elsewhere?
Where can I get more information?
- “Superfund” and “CERCLA” are often used as shorthand for the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. While the Kingston site is being cleaned up under CERCLA, it is not on the National Priorities List nor is Superfund money being used to clean it up.
- Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal. It is a gray powder with a consistency similar to flour. It is made up mostly of silica, similar to sand. Though the ash itself is inert, it may also contain other substances that occur naturally in coal, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium. It is used in many building products like cement, mortar, stucco, and grout, and as filler for road beds. It also is used in some potting soils and as a soil conditioner.
- Contact with wet coal fly ash does not present a serious health risk. Direct skin contact may cause localized irritation and breathing small amounts of fly ash for a short period of time is unlikely to be a health concern. Washing affected areas and removing and washing clothing are simple steps to take to remove the irritation.
- Breathing airborne particulates including fly ash over long periods of time can irritate the respiratory system. People with existing lung diseases such as bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) should avoid breathing coal fly ash dust.
- EPA Region IV, TDEC, and TVA crews have been
conducting water sampling and assessing the quality
of public drinking water supplies, private wells,
river water (both near the ash slide and at multiple
downstream locations), and local springs. Each agency
is using certified laboratories for their analyses.
All EPA, TDEC, and TVA water treatment facility sampling results from Rockwood, Harriman, Cumberland, and Kingston continue to meet water quality standards for drinking water. All of the more than 100 private groundwater wells tested by TDEC
also meet drinking water standards. Get More Info
- More than 44,000 mobile air monitoring samples taken
by TVA as of mid-May confirm the TDH finding that“the particulate matter and metals measured in air
near the site are below national and state standards
or are less than any levels of concern.” There is
no indication of health concerns for area residents
or workers. TVA, along with TDEC and the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has recently added additional stationary air monitors. Read More
Extensive nationwide studies of coal ash in recent decades have provided a body of scientific literature that gives the expected ranges for concentrations of metals in the ash. Testing of the Kingston ash samples shows that such concentrations are well below the limits for classification as a hazardous waste. The data shows that the concentrations
of most metals in the ash are within the range of concentrations found in natural soils in Tennessee or background levels in soils in the local area. Much of what TVA has found falls in the low end of those ranges and is more like Tennessee soil. The only exceptions are that two of the 47 samples collected by TVA had thallium levels slightly higher (by about 10 percent) than the range found in Tennessee soils.
The overall average for thallium in the ash falls right in the middle of the range for that element in Tennessee soil.
Ash samples, as well as a sample of soil from an unaffected area, were taken on December 29 and 30 in the Kingston area and analyzed for radioactivity. The final analysis confirms the conclusion that the radioactive material present is mostly naturally occurring and is similar to what would normally be found in soil in the Tennessee Valley area. It is also representative of what would be expected in coal ash.
- To address potential health issues, residents with
medical issues that they believe are associated with
the ash spill are referred to the local office of the
Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) at the Roane
County Health Department. TVA also has contracted
with Ridgeview Psychiatric Clinic for those individuals
in the affected area who would like to talk with a
mental health professional about what they have experienced.
- TVA is developing a plan to respond to individual
health concerns, including a process for determining
whether there are health effects that may be
related to the ash released from Kingston. We have
contracted with Oak Ridge Associated Universities
(ORAU) to provide community members and the
local medical community with access to medical and toxicology experts who have experience and knowledge in the health effects related to contaminants in the ash. ORAU is a consortium of 100 universities that collaborate to advance scientific research and education. It has expertise in public
health communication, design of medical monitoring programs, and independent verification of the cleanup of contaminated sites. Details on how to access these medical experts will be coming soon from ORAU.
- TDH and the Tennessee Department of Environment
and Conservation (TDEC) have informed the Kingston
community that public and private water supplies are
currently not impacted by the ash, that the amounts
of particulate matter and metals in the air meet all
standards and are below levels of health concern,
and that occasional exposure to the coal ash should
not be a health hazard. Please see the TDH Fly Ash
Release fact sheet, updated February 13, 2009, posted
on the TDH Web site.
- Local, state and federal agencies responded to the coal ash release at Kingston immediately and set up an integrated recovery project organization.
- The recovery project center is located on the plant site close to the ash storage area. TDEC and EPA continue to have staff at the site to carry on oversight and independent testing.
- TDEC continues to sample air, soil and ash, river water, drinking water intakes and treated drinking water so that any potential areas of concern can be recognized and responded to quickly.
- TVA’s latest estimate is that about 5.4 million cubic yards of ash escaped. This ash and water spread over about half a square mile adjacent to the plant. Some flowed into the Emory River, which is a tributary of the Clinch River and Watts Bar Reservoir. And some covered portions of nearby Swan Pond Road, Swan Pond Circle, and the railroad tracks by which coal is supplied to the plant.
- TVA has worked with more than 750 families so far on questions, concerns, and property damage claims. The property damage ranges from debris on lawns to three homes that were rendered uninhabitable because of structural damage. It was very good news that no one was injured.
- TVA officials have assured the public that TVA will fix the damages caused by the spill. TVA is developing a long-term plan for full recovery and restoration. Short-term actions also are under way:
- Immediately after the incident, TVA provided hotel rooms, meals, water, transportation and other support to ensure residents’ immediate needs were met.
- TVA assigned teams of employees and retirees to provide one point of contact for each of the homeowners in the affected areas to address their concerns and provide support.
- TVA set up an outreach center at 509 N. Kentucky Street in Kingston for residents to file claims or meet with an outreach team about issues and concerns. The center is open Monday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 865‑632‑1700. TVA also has a toll-free number, 800‑257‑2675, for property owners to call if they need an assessment of property damages.
- TVA has purchased more than 100 properties to date. TVA may purchase additional property that is directly affected by the remediation efforts moving forward. TVA is committed to ensuring that Roane County property tax revenues will not be negatively affected by the purchase of these properties.
- An important step in the recovery of the Kingston site is
Phase I dredging to remove ash from the Emory River
channel. TVA’s Phase I dredging plan was submitted
to TDEC and EP A and approved by both agencies
on March 19, 2009.
A pilot study was conducted during Phase I dredging to determine the processing capacity for full-scale dredging, how the ash would move during the process, and the effectiveness of TVA’s dredging strategies. Dredging officially began on March 19, and more than 156,000 cubic yards of ash have been
removed from the Emory River as of mid-May. The primary equipment used in the dredging process is hydraulic dredges. Mechanical clamshells are also being used to remove debris from the water. Both types of equipment are being operated in a way that minimizes water turbidity, or cloudiness. Continuous
water quality monitoring and routine water sampling and analyses will continue to be conducted throughout the dredging process.
- TVA has coordinated efforts with the Roane County Highway Department, and we appreciate its work on roads affected by the spill. Hassler Mill, Swan Pond Circle, and Swan Pond Road are all now open to the public. The rail line initially covered by the ash spill was cleared in January.
- TVA is taking measures to reduce the amount of airborne dust that may arise from the ash. To minimize dust and erosion, the undisturbed portion of the ash cell is being treated with Flexterra, a liquid dust suppression agent, composed primarily of wood fibers. This is a temporary measure for controlling dust and erosion while long-term recovery efforts continue.
- TVA has used a variety of methods to remove
cenospheres from the water. Skimmer booms have
been placed in the water to contain the particles
on the surface of the water. Vacuum trucks on barges, backhoes, and hand tools have then
been used to remove the cenospheres from the
water surface. Trucks transport the recovered
cenospheres to holding cells adjacent to the
settling pond on the Kingston plant site.
- This summer, we will reach some additional key
milestones in the recovery effort. Dredging of the
Emory River continues, and we will soon begin
transporting the ash off-site to an approved
Class 1 landfill. With the help of area residents, we will develop a Community Involvement Plan.
This Plan will provide the framework for how TVA will involve the public in decisions relating to the cleanup of the ash release on land and in the Swan Pond embayment, and the eventual use of the land after the cleanup. The Roane County Long-Term Recovery Committee has played an important role in
representing the community’s interests over the past five months. We thank them for working with us, and we look forward to even more progress in the coming months.
We also will be providing reports to the Kingston community to keep you informed as our work proceeds.
- Kingston Fossil Plant is about 35 miles west of Knoxville, Tennessee, at the junction of the Emory and Clinch Rivers near Kingston, Tennessee. It is one of TVA’s larger fossil plants, generating enough electricity to supply the needs of about 670,000 homes in the Tennessee Valley region. The plant began operation in 1955.
- As shown on the map linked at right, the Emory River flows into the Clinch River at Clinch River mile (CRM) 4.3, and the Clinch River subsequently flows into the Tennessee River at Tennessee River mile (TRM) 567.5. River miles are numbered from the mouth of each river, beginning at mile zero and increasing upstream. TVA's Kingston power plant occupies a peninsula between the Clinch and Emory Rivers, withthe cooling water intake located at Emory River mile (ERM) 1.9. The ash slide entered the Emory River at about mile (ERM) 2.1. Watts Bar Dam lies several miles downstream on the Tennessee at (TRM) 530. Click on the thumbnail map to see a larger map of the junctions of the three rivers.
- The plant itself is not affected by the ash release and continues to operate. With the repair of the rail line that was damaged by the release, normal coal deliveries to the plant have resumed.
- Staff at TVA’s 10 other fossil plants have made visual inspections of the containment dikes to note any changes in conditions. TVA has hired an independent engineering consulting company to perform an in-depth analysis of the root cause of the ash spill. The results of that study will be made public and we will share lessons learned with regulators and others in the industry for everyone’s benefit.
- TVA is posting the latest information on this Web site.
Page Updated December 5, 2013 1:41 PM