TVA, Roane mayor say water at coal ash site is safe

TVA, Roane mayor say water at coal ash site is safe

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"We tested for lead and thallium down there and they were are well within drinking water standards," said Anda Ray, TVA's environmental executive. "We tested for lead and thallium down there and they were are well within drinking water standards," said Anda Ray, TVA's environmental executive.

By WHITNEY HOLMES
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KINGSTON (WATE) -- According to Anda Ray, TVA's environmental executive, water test results taken at the site of Monday's coal ash slide came back with elevated levels of thallium and lead, but she says the water is still safe to drink.

"Those tests were done right at scene and the water treatment plant is six miles down. We tested for lead and thallium down there and they were are well within drinking water standards," said Ray.

TVA is doing its own testing of the sludge and water every other day.

TVA officials say their biggest concern is when the ash starts to dry. They say the ash is not toxic, but breathing it for an extended time is the same as breathing other kinds of dust and it can cause respiratory problems.

Ray cautions residents to not touch the ash. "Fly ash is inert. If it does contact the skin, for some people, it can cause skin irritants. Don't play in it and don't let dogs play in it because then that can be carried into house and if it dries that be airborne."

She adds TVA is looking at several ways to contain fly ash.

There is still no word on exactly how long the clean up will take.

TVA says a number of fish found dead near the spill site were not killed by any toxic chemicals from the fly ash. Their explanation is that the force of the release when the retention wall broke is what killed them.

Roane County Mayor Mike Farmer his main concern about the situation is the human aspect. He says TVA is doing an excellent job.

"A lot of people have been impacted at different levels. Some have lost homes," said Farmer. "They are anywhere from being inconvenienced to having an unbelievable loss."

Farmer says TVA helped residents with housing and gave them gift cards. He also says they worked to restore the infrastructure, such as power, gas and water.

What is crucial now is removing the sludge on Swan Pond Road, Farmer said. "Right now, we have a mile of road or so that has ashes over it and a loss rail services to plant. School starts in about a week and we got to get the road back open."

To those concerned about the water quality, Farmer says it is being monitored by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and TVA, and they will continue to be so. 

"The water is safe, as we know," Farmer said. "All sampling by EPA does not show anything out of range."

Swan Pond Road was covered with 3,000 feet of sludge following Monday's coal ash slide at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant.

By Friday, 400 feet had been cleared by clean up crews.

TVA officials say their primary goal right now is minimizing the impact on the community and reopening Swan Pond Road.

Six booms were put in place and the construction of two weir dams have begun. The jobs of these devices are to contain and clear the ash debris.

"Skimmer booms skim stuff off top and the weirs catch the ash in bottom," said Ronald Hall, manager of the TVA plant.

About 100 workers and 60 pieces of equipment of being used to clean up and contain the ash.

Two houses have been condemned. Farmer says a third may be condemned as well.

TVA officials say they have assessors looking at the damage. They also say they will supply residents with fencing to keep pets away from the ash.

Currently, they are waiting on dredging equipment.

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