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TVA Could Get Gallatin Plant Coal Ash Landfill

TVA Could Get Gallatin Plant Coal Ash Landfill

CREATED Mar 13, 2014

GALLATIN, Tenn. - There is a massive, billion dollar project underway at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, where the Tennessee Valley Authority has built a new smoke stack to scrub pollutants before being released into the air.

The facility burns coal to make steam and generate electricity, but they have to dispose of all the leftover ash. Some environmentalists are worried.

"Essentially it's going to be just like any other permitted solid waste landfill," said TVA spokesman Scott Brooks.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has already given preliminary approval of a 54 acre landfill on TVA's Gallatin site. The lined site will store dry ash is easier to contain.

"By dry we don't mean completely dry. It's not going to ash blowing. It's going to have a lower moisture content, but still enough so that the ash doesn't blow around," said Brooks.

In 2008, TVA found out the hard way how dangerous wet ash can be when a dike ruptured spilling more than a billion gallons of slurry into homes and waterways in Kingston, Tennessee during the largest ash spill disaster is U.S. history.

Brooks said the new landfill will have underground lining, and built to make sure it can't leak.

"Coal ash is toxic," said Chris Lunghino who is a part of the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign.

Lunghino worries even though TDEC has given preliminary approval of a dry ash landfill, the permits and regulations are too weak. Opponents said toxins in coal ash can cause cancer, asthma and a number of other health problems.

"They still present dangers to the public because toxins are still in that coal ash, and the toxins can leak from the coal ash into the ground water and they can also get into the air. That dry ash can blow," she said.

That's why they want stricter permits to control ground water testing, wastewater run-off and give other environmental protections to ensure a spill doesn't happen at the Gallatin site.

"We've learned from our mistakes, and we're doing something completely different now that's going to be a much different result," Brooks said.

TDEC hosted a public meeting on the project Thursday night. If officially approved, construction on the new landfill would begin immediately, and completed next year.

The entire coal plant project won't be done until 2017.