Groundwater Monitoring Results Provide TVA More In-depth Information on the Safe Management of CCR

TVA is sharing results of the latest groundwater monitoring samples taken at its coal combustion residual sites to identify areas for additional study and possible corrective action.

MARCH 1, 2019 — TVA has historically conducted groundwater monitoring at its coal combustion residual (CCR) sites and shared the information with state regulators and the public. In 2015, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its CCR Rule, TVA enhanced its groundwater monitoring network to meet the EPA’s requirements.

The CCR Rule sets forth a process, implemented over time, for monitoring, investigating and addressing any issues through corrective action. It requires groundwater monitoring of active, inactive and new CCR impoundments, as well as active and new CCR landfills through multiple phases of groundwater monitoring — baseline sampling, detection monitoring and assessment monitoring.

The 2018 CCR groundwater monitoring and corrective action reports are now posted at http://www.tva.gov/ccr. The public web page also includes fact sheets and information specific to TVA’s CCR units. The assessment monitoring reports on 2018 data show elevated levels at some of TVA’s CCR sites of molybdenum, arsenic, fluoride, lead, cobalt, lithium or cadmium above groundwater protection standards. Public drinking water supplies are not impacted. The data reflects the quality of groundwater beneath TVA’s CCR units. It does not mean there are adverse impacts to human health or the environment.

Surface Water Quality Is Healthy Around TVA Coal Plants

TVA’s monitoring consistently shows that surface water quality is not being adversely impacted by TVA’s operations of its coal plants, including ash management practices.

TVA has conducted decades of toxicity testing and ecological monitoring. None of this data indicates impacts to human health or the environment from coal ash storage at TVA sites. The biological population of fish and aquatic insects are abundant, diverse and healthy — all strong indicators of healthy water.

TVA has a long history of monitoring water quality conditions in TVA reservoirs, as well as the streams and rivers that flow into them. TVA places great value in understanding its reservoirs and maintaining information on current and trending reservoir conditions.

Detailed Assessments Continue at Coal Plants

Last year’s Groundwater Detection Monitoring Reports indicated some CCR units with results above background levels of key constituents that are naturally occurring in the environment and may occur in coal combustion residuals. These constituents included boron, calcium, chloride, fluoride, pH, sulfate and total dissolved solids (TDS).

Those units indicating elevated results underwent an alternate source demonstration to determine if they were due to (1) another source, (2) an error in the sampling or analytical method or (3) natural variability in the groundwater quality. If an alternate source was identified, the unit remained in the detection monitoring phase and those results are contained in the 2018 reports for that site.

If no alternate source was identified, the unit entered into the assessment monitoring phase. This phase included sampling for an expanded list of constituents with groundwater protection standards including antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, fluoride, lead, lithium, mercury, molybdenum, radium, selenium and thallium.

Under the guidance of the CCR Rule, TVA will continue monitoring CCR storage areas that do not require further action. In units where results above groundwater protection standards are found, TVA will initiate an assessment of corrective measures, with notification to the regulators and the public of the measures/remedies that have been initiated.

A revision to the  CCR Rule in 2016 included additional impoundments to be monitored that were not under the original CCR Rule. Initial results for these impoundments will be publicly posted on our website on September 3, 2019.

TVA Is Committed to Protecting the Environment

Along with ongoing monitoring and studies under the EPA's CCR Rule, TVA is also conducting extensive environmental investigations on the potential impacts of CCR at its coal-fired plants in Tennessee, including those where plants have been retired and/or removed. These investigations will provide additional data on everything from groundwater to surface water, fish and soil in areas around TVA’s CCR storage sites in Tennessee. The results will help inform the state regulator’s and TVA’s decisions on the future of storage of CCR, including closure methods and any corrective action necessary at these sites. More information of these investigations can be found at www.tva.com/tdec. Similar investigations are underway at TVA’s Alabama and Kentucky CCR units.

TVA is committed to serving the people of the Tennessee Valley through its mission of providing low-cost reliable power, environmental stewardship and economic development. This commitment includes being protective of human health, protective of the environment and complying with all applicable environmental regulations while safely managing coal ash at our fossil plants.