More than a year after the TVA coal ash spill mentioned above, the problem is spreading into several other states. The disaster resulted in the release of 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash over 300 acres and into the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee Rivers. This was enough ash to cover a square mile five feet deep. The arsenic- and mercury-laced muck or its watery discharge has been moving by rail and truck throughout the southeast to at least six different sites. As reported previously, the coal-ash sludge is laden with heavy metals linked to cancer. The EPA is considering new regulations that could classify coal ash as hazardous waste.
In the meantime, residents from Kingston, Tennessee to Perry County, Alabama are concerned about the effects coal ash will have on their health. The coal ash that is removed from the Emory River, near Kingston, is being shipped by rail to a landfill located in Perry County, Alabama. Unusually heavy rain – roughly 25 inches from November through February – has caused the landfill’s liquid collection system to produce up to 100,000 gallons a day of tainted water. The rainfall percolates through the landfill and leaches contaminants from the ash to create a toxic-laden mixture. This toxic mixture, called leachate, is then trucked to wastewater treatment plants.
The leachate from the Perry County landfill was originally shipped to two other Alabama locations in Marion and Demopolis. But problems with treatment at those two plants caused the landfill to ship its leachate to a commercial wastewater treatment plant in Mobile, Alabama, some 500 miles from the original coal ash spill. During January and February of 2010, the Mobile plant accepted the leachate until public outcry in Mobile persuaded the plant to stop accepting the toxic liquid.
In addition to the Mobile plant, a private treatment facility in Cartersville, Georgia took some of the befouled liquid for a short time in February. Georgia environmental officials later revealed that the company failed to have a required state permit. As a result, toxic leachate, with contaminants that originated in eastern Tennessee, will now be hauled to a non-hazardous waste disposal site in Louisiana and to a public wastewater plant in Mississippi.
The leachate disposal is not the only issue with the Perry County landfill. To make matters worse, the landfill recently filed bankruptcy, calling into question not only the landfill’s solvency, but also its ability to manage the nearly 3 million cubic yards of coal ash being deposited there and the resulting leachate. Therefore, what began in Kingston, Tenn. as the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, is now having ramifications not only in eastern Tennessee but also in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana. If you need additional information on this subject, contact Rhon Jones or David Byrne in our firm at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or David.Byrne@beasleyallen.com.
Sources: Associated Press and Montgomery Advertiser
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