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TVA to test water wells, air purity near ash slide

TVA to test water wells, air purity near ash slide

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 7:39 am

KINGSTON (AP) — The CEO and president of the nation’s largest public utility vowed to clean up a community encased in sludge after a major coal ash spill, where many residents fear toxic elements could seep into their drinking water. Sandy Dickman, whose land remains covered by several feet of gray muck, said he doesn’t think he’ll be drinking the water. And he dreaded what might happen after the mire dries out and could become airborne, despite the utility’s promise to test air quality and local wells. “It will look like a blizzard in the Arctic,” said Dickman, who moved to the area in 1975 and said he always suspected such a flood could happen. Tennessee Valley Authority head Tom Kilgore fielded questions from more than 200 residents at a meeting Sunday — people like Dickman, worried about everything from property values to livestock that could ingest contaminated water or grass. Some carried anti-coal industry signs, including one that said “Clean Coal is a myth.” Officials at the utility have said the water is safe to drink after a neighborhood flooded Dec. 22 with more than a billion gallons of water and fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal. The spill coated 300 acres after a dike burst at a retention pond used to store the ash at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant, about 35 miles west of Knoxville. Some also was dumped into the Emory River. “This is not a time when TVA holds its head high. I’m here to say we are going to clean it up and we are going to clean it up right,” Kilgore said. He said TVA would pay for the water and air tests, but could not say how long cleanup would take. The Environmental Protection Agency also said in a press release Sunday that people should be safe unless they drink untreated river water. The EPA found elevated levels of arsenic in some surface water, but said the poison was not detected in samples taken near the intake for the Kingston Water Treatment Plant, which supplies drinking water. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has also said elevated contaminant levels were found in water samples in the immediate area of the spill, but not around the plant’s intake. Three homes were destroyed and 42 property owners had damage of some kind, according to Roane County emergency management officials. Published in The Messenger 12.29.08

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