The Tennessee Valley Authority wants the public to weigh in on what should be done with all the coal ash piling up at its largest fossil plant, which is on the Cumberland River. But the federal utility has stated pretty clearly which way it’s leaning, which is not in line with what most environmentalists want.
TVA already plans to dry out the ash pond at its Cumberland City coal plant in Stewart County. That commitment was made after a similar ash mound collapsed in Kingston eight years ago, contaminating the nearby river and resulting in a billion-dollar cleanup.
Sierra Club volunteer Deanna Bowden attended a public hearing this week in Clarksville and says she wants TVA to do more than just secure the sludge in place.
“I would like them to spend a little upfront to keep from having incidents like Kingston, which costs so much and are so hurtful to people in the long run,” she said.
Environmentalists have asked that the ash be trucked elsewhere, which would be a big expense. But TVA spokesman Scott Brooks says cost isn’t the only downside.
“This is what opponents don’t necessarily want to talk about: Where do you put it?”
Brooks acknowledges that a traditional landfill wouldn’t be near a river, as the Cumberland City plant is. But he argues that at least if the ash remains on site, TVA can keep an eye on it.
The public comment period that opened this week runs through Jan. 6.
WKMS in Murray, Kentucky, contributed to this report.