MAC: Mines and Communities

Ash problem? Dump it on mine, says company

Published by MAC on 2009-06-08

Barely six months ago, US citizens suffered the "worst disaster" of its kind in US history.

Over five million cubic yards of coal ash from a TVA-owned power plant burst through an earthen dam and cascaded into nearby waters and onto surrounding land. See:

Now, a private Tennessee company, which owns a strip mine, is proposing selling its services to TVA, so that the spilled ash can be dumped onto one of its abandoned mine sites.

Coal - often called fly - ash customarily contains a cocktail of radioactive and toxic metals, including lead, arsenic, chromium and selenium.

Company proposes TVA coal ash be hauled to strip mine

By Bob Fowler,

3rd June 2009

A company wants to reclaim a strip mine by turning it into a landfill for TVA's coal ash spill, and it's sparking controversy in Cumberland County.

About 250 persons heard plans by Smith Mountain Solutions, LLC and objections as well as support from residents in a public meeting Tuesday in Crossville's Palace Theater.

The Charleston, Tenn., firm has an option on the 300-acre site owned by Crossville Coal Inc. that's in a remote corner of Cumberland County near the Morgan County line.

The company wants to be paid by TVA for hauling and holding coal ash spilled in the Dec. 22 disaster when a retention pond burst at Kingston Fossil Plant.

"It's a speculative deal right now, nothing else,'' said Mitchell Simpson of the proposal. He's an executive with a road-paving firm that is connected to Smith Mountain Solutions.

Simpson said TVA has been told about the proposal, but no agreement has been signed.

All of the 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash that spilled into the Emory River and adjoining countryside could be stored in a lined landfill at the old strip mine, which Simpson said the state wants reclaimed.

Cumberland County commissioners would have to approve the plan and a state permit would have to be obtained, he said.

Under the company's proposal, Cumberland County would receive a host fee for the landfill that could mean between $7.5 million and $8.5 million over three years, said Brock Hill, Cumberland County's mayor.

Part of that fee would be used to make improvements to Smith Mountain Road.

The company says the reclamation project would create about 100 jobs, mainly for truck drivers and heavy equipment operators.

Hill said he's taking a neutral stance on the controversy and describes his role as "fact-finder.''
Residents who live near the site are upset.

"The impact on us and other citizens along Smith Mountain Road is a huge traffic problem,'' said Vince Jozwiak.

He said the road is hilly and winding, and numerous dump trucks would be using it six days a week for years.

That traffic, combined with health concerns swirling around coal ash, would hurt property values, Jozwiak said.

The Environmental Protection Agency is now reviewing coal ash's properties and may upgrade its hazardous status, he said.

"There's a lot of concern about putting in a landfill that ultimately may turn into an EPA Superfund site,'' he said.

"There are a lot of people who have said they don't want this coal ash,'' Jozwiak said. "Roane County doesn't want it. Pennsylvania doesn't want it, so why are we wanting it?''

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