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Despite Heavy Rain In Days Prior to Spill, Fly Ash Dumping Continued at TVA Site

Jan 15, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP, LLP

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) continued to dump fly ash into a coal waste retention pond all through the wet autumn of 2008.  According to the Knoxville News, that activity contrasted to activity last winter when the TVA stopped deposits at the Kingston  Fossil Plant detention pond over fears that heavy rain would raise water beyond the pond's capacity.

Last month, the wall around that  retention bond in Eastern Tennessee ruptured, pouring more  billion gallons of  fly ash across more than 300 acres of land.  Though the exact cause of the fly ash spill was not known, it was thought that six inches of rain over the previous 10 days and overnight temperatures in the teens contributed to the dam breach.

According to the Knoxville News, much less rain had fallen in the 2007-2008 winter when the TVA stopped dumping fly ash there as a precaution. According to the TVA's February 2008 inspection report, the agency's consultants advised the November 2007 stoppage as a precaution against leaks that had plagued the pond since the 1980s, the Knoxville News said. "This preventative measure was taken to reduce water levels in the dredge cell through the winter months in an attempt to avoid another blow out." the report read. Deposits resumed at the site after surface repairs were made.

Despite heavy rains in the days leading up to the December spill, the TVA continued to dump fly ash in the pond.  According to the Knoxville News, TVA officials maintain that newly installed monitoring devices didn't indicate there was a problem prior to the spill.

We did not stop dredging in '08 because we put in place monitoring devices in the pond and monitored them every day," a TVA spokesperson told the Knoxville News. "Those levels didn't indicate any need for concern."

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