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.