Tennessee state officials have levied $4.5 million in fines against the Tennessee Valley Authority. The State Department of Environment and Conservation imposed the penalties after determining that the billion-gallon coal sludge spill in 2008 violated state clean-water and solid waste disposal laws. In a statement announcing the fines, Environment Commissioner Jim Fyke called them an “appropriate” response “to an unprecedented event.” TVA will not challenge the fines for an obvious reason – they are guilty as charged.
As we have reported, the December 22, 2008, spill began when a dike collapsed at a retention pond at the TVA power plant in Kingston, about 35 miles west of Knoxville. The mixture of water and ash was enough to fill nearly 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools, spreading across more than 300 acres of land and fouling the adjacent Emory River. The spill contained toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, selenium, and lead, as well as radioactive materials like chromium and barium. About 60% of the 1.1 billion gallon spill has been removed from the river in the first phase of cleanup. The entire operation may take another three to four years, according to Commissioner Fyke and that may be a conservative estimate.
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