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A collapsed retaining wall spews millions of gallons of fly ash across the Tennessee valley


A disaster that occurred early Monday morning has ruined the holidays for some residents of Knoxville, Tennessee. A retaining wall at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-fired power plant collapsed, spewing 2.6 million cubic yards of fly ash across Tennessee.

According to the TVA, 400 acres of land are submerged 6-feet deep in the toxic substance. The sludge that burst out of the holding pond for power plant waste ripped an entire home from its foundations and flooded 11 other homes in the area. In addition, a train was also heavily damaged.

"Protecting the public, our employees, and the environment is TVA's primary concern as we supply electric power for the people of Tennessee Valley region," said TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore. "We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes."

Fortunately, no injuries related to the disaster have been reported so far. However, the situation is expected to worsen. Fly ash is a highly toxic substance that contains mercury, lead, and arsenic. A report from last year also states that fly ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.  

The toxic substance has begun seeping into the Emory River, which means the waste may ultimately end up flowing into the Tennessee River, contaminating ground and surface water. The TVA says that it will continue to sample water downstream for contamination. As a precaution, the TVA has attempted to manage the river flows in order to reduce risk of contamination.

The Kingston power plant generates 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. According to the TVA, this powers 670,000 homes. Despite the disaster, the plant is still online and operating.  

Repairs for the disaster will begin immediately, with hundreds of bulldozers, dump trucks and workers already in the area to clear out the debris.

Residents displaced by the disaster have been provided with hotel rooms, food and transportation.  Gas, electricity and water have been restored to homes in the area that did not incur any serious damage.

Aerial footage of the disaster has also been posted on YouTube.



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Highly Toxic?
By Ratwar on 12/24/2008 10:04:41 PM , Rating: 2
Are you sure? I mean, I wouldn't feed the stuff to my kids or anything, but calling it highly toxic is a huge overstatement. In fact, the stuff is being increasingly used in concrete to make building cheaper...




RE: Highly Toxic?
By ttowntom on 12/24/2008 11:04:42 PM , Rating: 1
It's just burnt coal. You could eat a pound of it and not get anything but an upset stomach.


RE: Highly Toxic?
By mpeny on 12/25/2008 1:16:13 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, it is not toxic like a chemical spill but they can contain heavy metals which is the least is cause breathing problems - at worst cancer.

They need to test the site. It is yet to be determined either way.
Also, it will not be cheap to clean this up and pay families that have lost their homes under the dump.


RE: Highly Toxic?
By mars777 on 12/25/2008 1:32:29 AM , Rating: 2
Eat yes, but try to inhale...


RE: Highly Toxic?
By SandmanWN on 12/29/2008 9:20:55 AM , Rating: 3
inhale sludge?


RE: Highly Toxic?
By Marduke on 12/29/2008 10:48:49 AM , Rating: 2
sludge drys out in the sun.


RE: Highly Toxic?
By SandmanWN on 12/29/2008 2:23:45 PM , Rating: 1
Be nice if we had sun but its the middle of winter. The area in question is overly saturated with water currently which is one of the possible causes for the dikes failure.

Granted this could be a problem if it happened during the summer. The timing was just right that there may be near zero impact.


RE: Highly Toxic?
By omnicronx on 12/25/2008 1:52:34 AM , Rating: 2
It all depends on the coal that was used, as it varies from region to region and plant to plant. It has also been well known for some time that fly ash can be slightly radioactive. The thing is, many other materials used in concrete are also radioactive, (granite and redbrick to name a few).

Would I eat a handful of fly ash? Nope.. Would I be worried about fly ash in concrete, nope. Could there be potential risks in this spill situation, in my opionion, without a doubt.


RE: Highly Toxic?
By ayat101 on 12/25/2008 7:51:15 AM , Rating: 2
It contains heavy metals and concentrated uranium, thorium and other radioactive elements. Carcinogens are other poisons likely to occur in this waste. What exactly is not toxic about it?

Read the link the the Scientific American article and you should learn that the amount of nuclear waste from coal fired power stations is greater than from nuclear power plants... and all of it is concentrated in the burnt residue. It is diluted with other stuff, but the radioactivity is still there... and none of it is stored in any kind of containment. There are other articles on the net saying the same thing.

In fact, I recall that the amount of energy contained in the radioactive materials in burnt coal is more than the chemical energy in the coal itself.

Yet people are paranoid about nuclear power plants and waste while the same people are quite happy with coal fired power plants. They live next to them!


RE: Highly Toxic?
By michael67 on 12/25/2008 10:47:08 AM , Rating: 4
quote:
but calling it highly toxic is a huge overstatement......the stuff is being increasingly used in concrete to make building cheaper...

Yes, it is used in concrete, as it is up to 20% neutral to the strength of the concrete.
And its a cheap solution for both party's, one get rit of his toxic waste, the other get a cheap filler for the concrete, as it is way cheaper then cement because +20% fly ash means -10% cement.

And yes its very toxic and unhealthy if its not sealed up in concrete.

Its like asbestos its oke if its in the ground as a water-pipe ore worked away some ware as heat-resident material,
But don't bread in the dust, its really really not good for you and your kids health !!!!!

And the radiation coming from it is alpha radiation, a sheet of paper is enough to stop it, but partials absorbed in your longs, will increase your change to get cancer.

And i am not making this shit up, i work in the offshore and mud/gas/oil has the same properties as fly ash, some is very active some/most is below norm.

So getting it on your hands is not preferred, but ok if you wash up asap, getting it in to your system longs/swallow is a big no no!


RE: Highly Toxic?
By Screwballl on 12/25/2008 9:06:24 PM , Rating: 2
My father has worked at a coal power plant in South Dakota for 30 years now and there is no radioactive waste of any sort from their plant. Their "slush pond" (same type as what burst in this story) has live and healthy fish in it (although it is not suggested to eat them of course).


RE: Highly Toxic?
By Dharl on 12/26/2008 8:54:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A report from last year also states that fly ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.


I find this the most ironic statement out of the whole article. For years it's been a running joke in Oak Ridge, TN (Not too far from this diaster) about the people who protest the Y12 Nuclear Power Plant. Yet if this one statement is true... then that group needs to focus their annual protest on the coal plants.

Not that it'll make any difference, their protests are still a joke.


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