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Environmental Groups Concerned About TVA Plan to Close Coal Ash Impoundments

Waterkeeper Alliance Inc.
Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Environmental groups are expressing concern over the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement that looks at closing 10 coal ash impoundments. The Southern Environmental Law Center, Sierra Club Beyond Coal, and nine other groups have partnered to comment on the draft, which assesses closure-by-removal and closure-in-place.

The EPA says both methods are safe if properly done. But Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Beth Alexander says her organization doesn’t think TVA can properly close its coal ash ponds in place. She says many impoundments are unlined pits that were dug in the 1950s.

“Recently, Duke University did a study of, I think, 15 or so coal ash impoundments... and found that each and every one of them was discharging through seeps into the water that they sat next to. So we don’t really have any doubt that all of the other unlined impoundments are having the same problem,” Alexander said.

Alexander says the environmental groups would rather see TVA move the ash to lined pits located away from water sources. In an informational video about the draft EIS, TVA NEPA Compliance Specialist Ashley Farless says "TVA believes that closure-in-place would likely have less severe impacts than closure by removal."

TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks says the Shawnee Fossil Plant’s coal ash impoundment was created prior to regulations and is not lined. But, he says TVA can properly close the impoundment by storing the ash dry and covering it to prevent moisture from getting into the ash.

“We disagree that it can’t be done properly because we’ve done the research, we’re going to be using industry accepted methods, and we’re going to monitor to make sure that nothing happens,” Brooks said.

Brooks says TVA will determine site-specific closure methods with the release of the final Environmental Impact Statement at the end of the summer.

A proud native of Murray, Kentucky, Allison grew up roaming the forests of western Kentucky and visiting national parks across the country. She graduated in 2014 from Murray State University where she studied Environmental Sustainability, Television Production, and Spanish. She loves meeting new people, questioning everything, and dancing through the sun and the rain. She hopes to make a positive impact in this world several endeavors at a time.
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