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Long Term Damage from Kingston Ash Spill Hard to Find

            As the third anniversary of the Kingston coal ash spill approaches, clean-up of the site is nearly complete and exhaustive health and environmental studies are failing to find any lasting damage.

            On December 22, 2008, a containment dike at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Power Station coal ash disposal pond failed, spilling about a billion gallons of sludge over 300 acres and into a nearby river.  It was the largest coal ash disposal failure in history and served as the catalyst for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to designate coal ash as a “hazardous waste.”

Engineering News Record magazine in August published a detailed account of Tennessee Valley Authority’s two and one-half year effort to clean up the Kingston coal ash spill. The article includes a series of photos showing locations immediately after the incident and today. Click here for the article and here for the slide show.

            Also during August, the Oak Ridge Associated Universities hosted a symposium to consider the latest scientific information on the coal ash spill. It was the second such symposium sponsored by the universities. Investigators presenting research represented teams from eight federal and state agencies, four environmental consulting firms, and 13 academic institutions.

The data presented generally indicated no serious impacts from the spill in the food chain. Researchers have collected and tested various species of indigenous insects, frogs, fish, turtles, birds, and raccoons. Researchers also looked into the presence of 26 elements in the samples collected as well as reproductive impacts. Sampling was performed at a wide variety of locations including upstream and downstream from the site of the spill. Several reports indicated discovery of legacy impacts from work done at the nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratories rather than from the coal ash spill. (Oak Ridge was a major center for development of nuclear weapons technologies and the Kingston Power Station was originally constructed to provide electricity for that effort.)

ORAU maintains a website about Kingston-related research here. Presentations and posters from the most recent symposium are expected to be posted on the website soon along with results of previous human health impact studies that found no apparent problems.

Posted by: on: Sep 19, 2011 @ 10:24