BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The nation's largest
utility can dump millions of tons of coal ash from a Tennessee spill
into an Alabama landfill, federal regulators said Thursday, despite
criticism that the plan is unfair to one of Alabama's poorest counties.
Environmental Protection Agency said it would let the Tennessee Valley
Authority ship dredged material about 300 miles from the site of a huge
retention pond failure in eastern Tennessee to the Arrowhead Landfill
in central Alabama's Perry County.
the commercial landfill that most often receives household garbage is
well-suited for accepting the ash, which contains toxic materials
including arsenic and lead.
TVA said the shipments, which will go by rail, would begin immediately.
rail line runs from Tennessee through northeast Alabama to Arrowhead
Landfill near Uniontown. Operators say it's one of the nation's largest
Perry County will make
millions of dollars off the shipments from dumping fees, and TVA has
said as many as 50 jobs could be created to handle the shipments at the
landfill, which now has five full-time employees.
opponents of the plan accuse TVA of unjust dumping on the people of a
rural and mainly black county, where U.S. Census statistics show 31
percent of families live in poverty. Uniontown has about 1,600
residents, 88 percent of whom are black.
still feel that there are elements that seem like an injustice to the
people of Perry County," said Michael Churchman, executive director of
the Alabama Environmental Council. "The benefits of the new jobs and
increased income to families in that county is not as significant as
it's being portrayed to be."
The $45 million
landfill is permitted to receive wastes from 17 states east of the
Mississippi River. EPA said the landfill meets all technical
requirements specified by federal and state regulations.
landfill is permitted to accept waste materials such as coal ash and
has the capacity to accommodate the anticipated volume of material,"
EPA said in a statement.
TVA has said it
wants to use the landfill to dispose of about 3 million cubic yards of
coal ash that was released when a dike burst at a plant at Kingston,
Tenn., in December. The coal ash bound for Alabama is being dredged
from the Emory River.
About 5.4 million cubic
yards of coal ash was released in all, but TVA hasn't said what it
plans to do with the rest. The utility said it was looking for sites
other than the Perry County landfill, which typically accepts household
The Tennessee Department of
Environment and Conservation has given TVA permission to conduct coal
ash disposal tests at four landfills in eastern Tennessee, but a TVA
spokesmen said the agency has no current plans to do so.
officials already have rejected TVA inquiries into using Pennsylvania
landfills. TVA officials said they weren't interested in the
Pennsylvania landfills anyway since they weren't lined.
spokeswoman Davina Marraccini said the utility hasn't sought permission
to dispose of the Kingston coal ash anywhere other than Perry County.
coal ash contains at least 14 heavy metals and other hazardous
compounds, documents show. Environmental regulators in Alabama said
they would allow the shipments because tests showed the toxins were
present in low concentrations that aren't considered hazardous.
disposal plan said it would initially send 85 loaded railcars every two
days to Alabama, and shipments of the same size would become daily
within weeks. The disposal could take a year.
said the trains would probably pass though metropolitan Birmingham,
Alabama's most heavily populated area, which is about 100 miles north
of the landfill.
"How many people know that
those 35,000 rail cars are likely going to come right through
Birmingham?" he said. "I don't think all these kinds of things have
been factored in yet."
TVA provides power to
nearly 9 million consumers through 158 distributors in Tennessee and
parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and
Associated Press writer Duncan Mansfield in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.