Saturday, January 10, 2009

TVA Has More Spills, Sen. Boxer Demands Review

Another TVA spill from their coal-fired Widow's Creek plant in Alabama -- that makes for three "accidents" in less than a month. TVA officials called the Alabama incident a "leak" which poured out 10,000 gallons from a gypsum waste pond - some going into the Tennessee River. This is the same plant that TVA's Inspector General cited in a report from last year for failure to address the constant problem of leakage -

The report says little consideration was given by TVA officials of reporting the "continuous nature and extent of the leaks" to Alabama environmental authorities."

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California told the press that the agency needs a full review and needs it now:

"The Tennessee Valley Authority has a lot to answer for - the first step is to prevent further spills and damage to communities around its plants. I have asked the TVA for a complete assessment of the safety of its waste disposal sites and their plans for upgrading those sites. This second pollution spill must be a wake up message to the TVA and to the U.S. EPA that the current situation is unacceptable."

In a KNS story on this incident, TVA officials say they did conduct a review of all of their waste ponds and found they were "all in good shape."

Also the state has cited TVA for failing to comply with regulations when they allowed for the release of sludge into the Ocoee River this week, a story which KnoxViews has been tracking.

Sen. Boxer's committee heard testimony this week on TVA's handling of their first accident back on Dec. 22nd (links to the hearing and testimony here). But as noted at Facing South, TVA's CEO just did not have much info on what the status of their waste ponds might be, or even how many there are:

Asked how many ash ponds TVA had in use, for example, Kilgore said he didn't know. He also didn't know why the company opted for dry storage at some facilities and wet at others, or that TVA had previously fought federal environmental enforcement efforts. And he said he was unaware that a 2007 federal assessment documented three TVA sites with proven damage from coal ash pollution.

Kilgore also demonstrated what appeared to be a basic misunderstanding of critical coal waste handling issues. Asked whether he would be willing to utilize the same strict waste-management practices for his ash impoundments that govern landfills for ordinary household trash, he responded that his company was investing hundreds of millions of dollars in new air scrubbers for the Kingston plant.

"That's wonderful, and we all applaud that, but that gives us even more ash," said an exasperated Boxer. "I'm asking about safe disposal of ash."

Kilgore replied noncommittally that TVA would "look at several options."

While Governor Bredesen has called for far more state regulatory controls over TVA, it seems their current system is in dire need of immediate attention right now. When will the rest of Tennessee's state and federal representatives call for action? How many "accidents" will it take? Why hasn't TVA's own board called for intense reviews of their federally-owned utility?


  1. The Nations largest power company!

    "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." - Quotation from Lord Acton, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887

    Funny how things change yet stay the same.

  2. well, first off for the comment above mine, TVA isn't the largest power producer in the USA by a long shot. Also, these other two minor incidents would never have been heard of if it weren't for the REAL disaster at Kingston. ITs silly to take the spolight away from that over some harmless limestone leak.

  3. it isn't about shifting the spotlight away, but focusing on an endemic problem in the agency in regards to potential dangers their facilities add to our communities due to lack of oversight, aging safeguards, and the dismissal of calls for improvements from the state and their own inspectors.