TVA Coal Ash Cleanup Hits Snag in Alabama

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The Tennessee Valley Authority’s massive cleanup of a coal ash spill from last Christmas at the coal-fired power plant in Kingston, Tennessee, “has hit a snag 500 miles away, just before the treated wastewater reaches Mobile Bay,” according to the Associated Press.

A wastewater processing company in Mobile, Alabama, called Liquid Environmental Solutions, said Friday it would stop accepting shipments of wastewater runoff from the Perry County landfill that is accepting the coal ash, which is laced with arsenic, mercury, lead, uranium and other heavy metals and toxic substances.

In a statement, the Dallas-based Liquid Environmental Solution’s senior vice president, Dana King, said the shipments have been stopped “due to local concerns” because “some people are up in arms” even though the company has “properly accepted, tested and treated the non-hazardous Perry County landfill wastewater.”

Many of the substances in the waste are considered hazardous and cancer-causing agents individually, but due to the complicated federal regulatory scheme, they are not classified as “hazardous waste” under the law as it now stands.

“In support of our commitment to work with community leaders, we have decided we will no longer be accepting this wastewater,” King said.

After being treated, the wastewater was being routed through the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System and discharged into Mobile Bay.

The president of landfill co-owner Phill-Con Services, Eddie Dorsett, which recently declared bankruptcy to avoid a pending lawsuit, did not return calls or e-mails for comment.

About 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash laced with arsenic and potentially toxic substances spilled out of a holding pond at the TVA plant on Dec. 22, 2008, totally filling up a six mile stretch of the Emory River in East Tennessee. A dredging operation began there last March 20 to begin a massive cleanup that could take more than five years. The ash is being loaded onto train cars, up to 110 a day, and shipped through downtown Birmingham to the landfill in Uniontown, a poor community in Alabama’s Black Belt.

It was not immediately known if the decision might affect the pace of removing the spilled coal ash.

The landfill earlier was sending the landfill runoff water, officially termed leachate, to the Marion, Alabama, wastewater treatment plant, where it was discharged into a lagoon. The Environmental Protection Agency, acting on concerns of residents in that community, suggested that the leachate be taken elsewhere.

David Ludder, a Tallahassee, Florida attorney specializing in environmental law, has filed a notice of intent to sue the operators of the treatment plant on behalf of local residents.

The other landfill co-owner, disaster recovery specialist Phillips and Jordan of Knoxville, has a $95 million contract with TVA to dispose of the coal ash. Telephone calls to Phillips and Jordan late Friday were not answered.

TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said the decision by Liquid Environmental Solutions to stop accepting the wastewater is “something that will have to be worked out between Phillips and Jordan and that company. What we’ll do is work with Phillips and Jordan according to the contract we have in place.”

Related Coverage

Another Lawsuit Threat Faces Arrowhead Landfill

Perry County’s Arrowhead Landfill Going Bankrupt?

A Call for EPA Takeover of Alabama’s Water Program

Coal Ash Spill Anniversary as Forgotten as Disaster Itself

TVA Dumps Toxic Coal Ash in Poor Alabama Town

TVA to Begin Coal Ash Spill Cleanup March 20

© 2010, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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