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TVA puts brakes on plan to remove coal ash from Allen Fossil Plant

by James Coleman —

After gauging reaction to a plan to relocate coal ash from the shuttered Allen Fossil Plant to a landfill east of Memphis International Airport, the TVA has decided to keep its options open.

“This partnership put in place a process and shared responsibility to safely remove the coal ash and restore the site for the benefit of the community,” said Scott Brooks, public relations representative for the TVA, in a statement via Twitter.

“We are taking time to further engage with our stakeholders and community partners to work together toward this shared objective.”

Memphis City Council members on Tuesday (Aug. 3) were provided details of a controversial plan to relocate the waste.

“You all made great effort, I see in the presentation, to make sure to say this was Capleville and not Memphis. (But) this is Memphis. It’s a part of our city,” said Councilman Worth Morgan. 

“It may not be in the center, but we have to represent and defend the people on the edges of the city just as fervently as we do the people in the center or any neighborhood.”

The southeast community lies 20 miles down the road from President’s Island, where both the idle plant and waste remain. 

The TVA plans to raze the plant and return the land to the City of Memphis, Shelby County and MLGW. Both the plant and the waste lie atop the Memphis Aquifer, the main source of drinking water for the city. 

To prevent the waste from possibly contaminating the city’s water supply, a pair of resolutions were introduced to find another dumping ground for the ash. 

In 2017, TVA found arsenic levels 300 times higher than federal drinking water standards in groundwater near the containment ponds. Other toxins also were found.

“I know my colleagues are supportive of a similar, or somewhat similar, resolution for TVA. And I am supportive of that resolution, but this is not a competitive resolution,” said Councilman Jeff Warren.

“What this resolution is doing is asking to make sure when this is finally done, it’s not stored anywhere on top of our aquifer.”

Warren sponsored a resolution that would ban the TVA from relocating any ash from the plant to any landfill within the Mississippi Embayment aquifer system. Containing six aquifers, the ebayment covers eight states. 

With a widening radius of banning the material, the increase in costs, such as transportation, inherent in the plan was brought up.

“I just question the practicality of it, if we have to move it to New Mexico,” said Councilman Martavius Jones.

Warren said his plan would carry the waste 150 miles to the northwest or northeast, where he said it would not threaten the ebayment.

The other resolution would halt the current plan and urge the energy provider not to dump in the MLGW coverage area.

Councilman Chase Carlisle recommended that the resolutions be combined.

The TVA defended the plan, saying several alternatives were studied, including leaving the ash in place, closing in place and closure by removal.

“This project is probably one of the most comprehensive looks at removal of the ash from the site,” said Cedric Adams, principal project manager for the Allen Plant. “The best decision was closure by removal.”


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