The Kingston Steam Plant fly ash spill will be the topic at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's next Nature @ Noontime program on Thursday, April 2 from 12-1 p.m.
Hosted by TWRA's Information & Education Division, the program is held the first Thursday of each month with the exception of July. David McKinney, Chief of TWRA's Environmental Services Division will be the program's April presenter and will give an overview of the spill and explain what investigations are on-going to monitor and evaluate the damage. On Dec. 22, 2008, the walls gave way on a massive, above-ground coal ash landfill spilling coal ash sludge over more than 300 acres near Kingston. The nearly five and a half million tons of sludge spread across the community, knocked one home off its foundation and damaged others.
The sludge toppled trees and filled wetlands and two embayments of the Emory River. This event raised health and environmental concerns in nearby neighborhoods and miles downstream and launched a cleanup that could cost $825 million. TWRA was one of the first on the scene, knowing that wildlife, especially aquatic species, could be adversely affected by the spill both at the site and downstream on the Emory and Clinch Rivers.
Fly ash, a by-product of burning coal, contains trace amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury, beryllium and other potentially toxic substances. The Kingston Power Plant, a coal-fired electric generation station initially developed during World War II, largely to power the uranium enrichment plants used to make the world's first atomic bomb at nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been accumulating fly ash for years.
Among TWRA's Environmental Services Division's responsibilities are surveying and documenting fish kills and contaminant monitoring for mussels. Assessment of the impact of this fly ash release on wildlife resources and habitat will require repeated sampling and evaluation over the next three to five years and perhaps even longer.