Massive Tennessee Toxic Ash Spill May Have Been Prevented by Fixes Rejected by TVA Officials
Photo courtesy of the LA Times
The devastating, 2.6 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash slurry released in a Tennessee dike burst could perhaps have been avoided if TVA officials hadn't rejected costly fixes, a new report in the Tennessean reveals.
Apparently, a review of state records shows that there was a minor blowout five years ago that spurred officials to look for a way to ensure that the 98 acre mound of sludge would stay put. Seems they didn't look hard enough—and instead overlooked possible solutions that were ruled out as "global fixes" or simply too costly.A Clear ThreatAccording to the Tennessean, the issue was that "Water was tunneling in the layers of ash and creating pressure points on the dike holding the structure in place."
So there was a definite diagnosis of the problem. And yet:
"How the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to stabilize Kingston's ash landfill would have implications for its many other elevated waste dumps, an important tool in the agency's strategy to maximize its storage on-site and avoid more costly options."Cutting CostsEssentially, the report finds that the TVA—though perhaps not cutting corners outright—definitely placed running a cost-effective operation far ahead of preventing environmental disaster. The most expensive fix would've cost $25 million dollars. The company instead settled on an overtly half-assed solution:
"TVA chose to install a series of trenches and other drainage mechanisms to try to relieve the water pressure and give the walls more stability."
That's certainly not a credible long-term solution, especially when there's such specific information about the problem. And now, perhaps due to a combination of greed and negligence, we have this:
Photo courtesy of the NY Times
Many ruined homes, contaminated water supplies, and colossal environmental damage—the EPA says cleanup could take years.
The new report could potentially aid Tennessee landowners in their lawsuit against TVA for $165 million. Makes that $25 million dollar fix to the containment structure sort of seems like a bargain bin find, doesn't it?