After more than four and a half years of clean-up, TVA says crews have finally finished digging millions of gallons of coal ash out of the water that surrounds its Kingston Fossil Plant.
On the frigid morning of December 22, 2008, an outer wall of the coal power plant's ash pond collapsed and unleashed a moonscape of more than a billion gallons of sludge in the Clinch River, Emory River, and surrounding neighborhoods in Roane County.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has helped oversee the cleanup of disaster. On Friday both the EPA and TVA provided a tour of the site in celebration of the completion of excavation of more than 3 million cubic yards of ash from the water.
"All of the ash we intend to remove, as of today we are done removing that ash," said Craig Zeller, EPA Project Manager. "It is a big event for us. There have been hundreds of people working long
hours for a little over four years and six months now. So to get to the
point we can actually say we are done excavating ash in the lake is a
"This is the last area that we have ash that was in the water that we're removing. And so we're celebrating today getting all of that out," said Kathryn Nash, TVA manager of the Kingston Recovery Project.
The EPA recommended intentionally leaving a thin layer of ash at the bottom of part of
the river. Digging all of the ash out of the river could disturb legacy radioactive material that came from Oak Ridge during the Cold War and is now safely covered in natural sediment.
As for the ash
that was removed, crews have almost finished building an
earthquake-proof wall around it. The final containment cell will be covered with a thick plastic liner and then be buried beneath a couple of feet of clay.
"Although we've come a long way, we still have a year and a half to go on this project. So there's
still a lot of work to be done," said Nash.
The dramatic changes in the landscape since December 2008 extend beyond the ash pond to the surrounding neighborhoods. On Lakeshore Drive, TVA bought dozens of lakefront homes that were affected by the spill. The houses have been torn down and the area is being converted into park green-space for the public.
TVA has already built a fishing pier, a 2.1 mile paved walking path, and a courtesy dock for non-motorized boats such as canoes and kayaks. The end of the peninsula at Lakeshore Drive will also feature a ramp for motorized boats. The park will officially open next spring, but TVA does not currently deny access to the area.
When the ash spill clean-up at Kingston is complete in a year and a half, Nash said the entire project will cost around $1.17 billion.