TVA Grants Comment Extension and Public Hearing re Toxic Allen Coal Ash Ponds
On November 30, 2018 the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) published notice (attached) in the Federal Register (attached) that they intended to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to determine the best way of disposing of the toxic metal containing coal ash currently stored in unlined, leaking impoundments along McKellar Lake in Southwest Memphis. TVA initially identified January 4, 2019 as the deadline for the public to submit comments regarding the scope of the EIS and made no provision for any public hearings on the matter.
On December 4, 2018, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) submitted a letter (attached) on behalf of the Sierra Club and Protect Our Aquifer (POA) requesting an extension of the comment period and a public hearing at which the public could address and identify its concerns. This request was made to ensure that the public would have ample opportunity to consider the issue, despite the short deadline and distraction of the holidays. On December 21, 2018 TVA granted this extension request (attached), allowing the public until January 31, 2019 to submit their comments and scheduling a public information meeting on January 17, 2019 from 5-8 PM at the Mitchell Community Center.
TVA has proposed (see TVA’s website) to dispose of the coal ash at the Allen Fossil Plant by one of three methods: 1) "beneficial reuse", which would convert the ash into concrete and cement product; 2) the reinterment of the ash by removing it to a properly engineered Class I landfill; or 3) capping it in place and leaving it on top of the Memphis Sand Aquifer.
All three methods of disposal raise serious concerns regarding the health and safety of workers, the community, and pose differing levels of threat to the Memphis Sand Aquifer, the source of Memphis’s drinking water. Recent studies have demonstrated that there is a direct hydrological connection between the Memphis Sand Aquifer and the shallow Mississippi Alluvial Aquifer which is known to be contaminated with arsenic, lead and fluoride that has leaked from TVA’s coal ash impoundments. Should TVA’s cooling water production wells be operated now, it would draw these contaminants toward, and eventually into the Memphis Sand Aquifer.
Additionally, on December 12,2018, SELC filed a request (attached) on behalf of Sierra Club and POA that TVA’s cooling water production well permits be revoked. These wells would not be allowed under Shelby County’s new Groundwater Regulations and should not be allowed to be renewed, despite TVA’s promise not to use them.
TVA's Revised EIS Scoping Notice (reflecting extension and hearing)