U.S. EPA approves Perry County for coal ash dumping

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, July 2, 2009

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the Arrowhead Landfill about four miles from here as a dumping site for coal ash from a December accident at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant.

The EPA made the announcement Thursday of TVA’s plan to transfer the coal ash from the Emory River near the TVA Kingston removal site in Roane County, Tenn., to Perry County.

“EPA’s administrative order on consent with TVA requires that the coal ash from the site be disposed of in accordance with the most stringent protective disposal standards for municipal solid waste landfills,” the EPA announced in a statement. “The Arrowhead Landfill was selected because it meets and exceeds these standards.”

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It’s expected about 3 million of the total 5.4 million cubic yards of ash spilled at the Kingston site will wind up in the Perry County landfill.

The EPA says the landfill has the capacity to take the material. The landfill has a clay liner and a polyethylene liner and a leachate collection system that gathers liquids and pumps them for treatment.

Norfolk Southern has a direct rail line from the TVA site to the landfill, which is how the ash will travel.

County officials have approved of the dumping of the material, saying the heavy metals contained in the ash are no more dangerous than those already existing in the earth or other places. Heavy metals are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium and zinc. The EPA says the ash contains “low levels” of these metals.

Michael Churchman, executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council, raised opposition to the move, saying it takes advantage of an area where U.S. Census statistics show 31 percent of families live in poverty and about 88 percent of the local residents are African-American.

The plan says about 85 loaded railcars would travel through Alabama every two days. The project could take about a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.