- Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) this week issued a report on its plans to address coal ash waste at its Bull Run coal plant, but environmentalists are worried that the waste is already below the groundwater table and cannot be left in place.
- The 863-MW Bull Run plant is the only single-generator coal-fired power plant in the TVA system. Based on current estimates of energy production, TVA reports on-site storage capacity will be expended within a decade.
- Knoxville News Sentinel reports the utility wants to convert the plant into dry storage of coal ash, using water-resistant liners to bury the waste. But advocates say it should be excavated rather than left in place, where it could potentially impact drinking water supplies.
Waste left behind at the nation's power sites is a continuing issue, particularly for states where coal generation is significant. Duke Energy has made headlines recently in its efforts to clean up in North Carolina. And now TVA's coal ash plans are coming under scrutiny as well.
On Nov. 29, TVA submitted an Environmental Impact Statement for plans to protect drinking water from coal ash at Bull Run. The plan predicts "minimal impact due to incorporation of low permeability synthetic liner and leachate collection and treatment system."
Environmental groups, however, worry that the ash is already below groundwater levels and could threaten drinking water despite precautions. A spokesman for TVA, however, told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the utility is spending billions on conversion of wet ash storage, and "storage in place on TVA property is environmentally sound.”
TVA is also experimenting with other storage methods. The utility has been examining a new method of handling coal ash, labeled "intelligent compaction," which creates impermeable, rock-hard pyramids that can be left in place. However, the experimental method has critics as well, arguing areas near TVA's Kingston and Gallatin plants are prone to sinkholes.
Last year, Tennessee state agencies sued TVA for violating rules on coal ash disposal at its Gallatin coal plant, alleging coal ash was leaking into groundwater.