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TVA Fly Ash Cleanup to Last Three Years

Oct 5, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Efforts to complete cleanup on last year’s massive Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) fly ash spill is expected to take three years, according to Steve McCracken, the newly-named recovery project’s general manager, reported KnoxNews.

According to McCracken, speaking at a news conference at the plant, the properties impacted by the historic and decimating spill will be safe for habitation and that he claims he would feel safe living near the utility’s plant following cleanup, said KnoxNews. "I feel confident we can do that," he said, quoted KnoxNews, of McCraken’s comments on the cleanup plans.

The December 2008 catastrophic fly ash spill dumped an incomprehensible 5.4 million cubic yards—over one billion gallons—of toxic coal sludge into Tennessee’s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding the TVA Kingston plant. The spill ravaged the environment, the economy, and the lives and health of the families, wildlife, and aquatic life living in the area. KnoxNews noted that the toxic sludge destroyed three homes and damaged about two-dozen others.

Citing officials, KnoxNews reported that one-third of the sludge dumped into the river has been removed, to date. The river is expected to be cleared at the end of Phase 1, which is scheduled for completion by next spring, said KnoxNews. The rest of the sludge should be cleared from a creek and the land surrounding the TVA plant, reported KnoxNews.

Earlier this year, we wrote about how information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, citing a report by

Numerous studies have concluded that coal dumps leach dangerous toxins into the environment that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health outcomes in water and wildlife populations, including frightening guarantees of developing cancer from drinking contaminated water and suffering damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs from toxic metal exposure, such as cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants far above levels that are considered safe,” said Environmental Integrity, previously. The group also noted that the danger to wildlife and ecosystems is “off the charts, with one contaminant—boron—expected to leach into the environment at levels two thousand times thresholds generally considered to be safe.”

Residents have some valid and serious concerns regarding the heavy metals that were released with the spill, such as arsenic, lead, selenium, and radioactive products including chromium and barium, reported CNN previously. Some of these toxins and chemicals have been known to cause cancer, as we have long been reporting.

McCracken is taking over for Anda Ray, TVA's senior vice president for environment and research, said KnoxNews. Ray was in the spot temporarily and is now returning to her prior post and will also continue serving on the board of the Roane County Economic Development Foundation. According to KnoxNews, McCracken has managed three large cleanup projects for the U.S. Department of Energy, worked as assistant manager for environment management for the Department of Energy (DOE), and managed contaminated industrial facility cleanups in Missouri and Ohio.

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