Report finds toxic groundwater pollution at all TVA coal plants

Report finds toxic groundwater pollution at all 11 TVA coal plants

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WATE) - Five years after the coal ash spill in Kingston, a new report from Environmental Integrity Project reveals decades of mismanagement have led to toxic groundwater pollution at all 11 Tennessee Valley Authority coal plants.

The EIP report shows concentrations of arsenic, boron, cobalt, manganese and other pollutants exceeding health-based guidelines in dozens of downgradient wells. The affected groundwater is now unsafe for human consumption.

The pollutants are all associated with coal ash, according to the report.

The report says as the pollution migrates into local surface water, the contamination also threatens aquatic ecosystems.

The report is based primarily on Freedom of Information Act requests and also shows TVA is not adequately monitoring much of the groundwater around its ash disposal areas.

Arsenic, which has been linked to several types of cancer, was found in concentrations exceeding the Safe Drinking Water Act Maximum Containment Level at five TVA plants: Allen, Bull Run, Colbert, Cumberland Paradise, and John Sevier.

Boron, which may harm developing fetuses and contribute to testicular atrophy, was found in excessive levels at nine of TVA's 11 plants. Manganese was found in high levels in 50 wells at 10 TVA plants.

The report also shows that TVA frequently stops monitoring areas it knows to be contaminated. An example cited is the installation of seven wells around the fly ash and bottom ash ponds at the Paradise plant in Kentucky in 2010.

The report says TVA found high concentrations of several pollutants in 2011, then stopped monitoring all seven wells.

TVA issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

"TVA takes our commitment seriously to safety, health and the environment.

"All wastewater at TVA power generating facilities is treated, processed or managed according to nationally accepted practices and complies with state and federal water quality requirements. Even rain water is processed.

"Water discharge permits for TVA's power generating facilities set limits designed to protect people, livestock, wildlife, plants and the aquatic habitat of receiving streams or reservoirs. Compliance is TVA's top priority.

"TVA regularly monitors water quality to assure compliance both at plant discharge outflows and downstream, testing such things as water temperature, water clarity, pH, suspended solids, inorganic substances and metals.

"For more than 75 years, the rivers and reservoirs managed by the TVA have provided a clean, quality source of drinking water for people of the Tennessee Valley. TVA's long-term Reservoir and River Health Monitoring program continues to demonstrate the water is clean and healthy. As part of TVA's commitment to a cleaner environment, TVA is retiring older, less-efficient fossil plants and converting wet ash storage to dry ash storage."


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