TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill
22, 2008, a retention pond wall collapsed at Tennessee Valley
Authority's (TVA) Kingston plant in Harriman, Tennessee, releasing a
combination of water and fly ash that flooded 12 homes, spilled into
nearby Watts Bar Lake, contaminated the Emory River, and caused a
Officials said 4 to 6 feet of material escaped from the pond to
cover an estimated 400 acres of adjacent land.
A train bringing coal to the plant became stuck when it was
unable to stop before reaching the flooded tracks. Hundreds of fish
were floating dead downstream from the plant. Water tests showed
elevated levels of lead and thallium.
Originally TVA estimated that 1.7 million cubic yards of waste
had burst through the storage facility. Company officials said the
pond had contained a total of about 2.6 million cubic yards of
However, the company revised its estimates on December 26, when
it released an aerial survey showing that 5.4 million cubic yards
(1.09 billion gallons) of fly ash was released from the storage
Several days later, the estimate was increased to over 1 billion
The size of the spill was larger than the amount TVA claimed to
have been in the pond before the accident, a discrepancy that TVA
was unable to explain.
The TVA spill was 100 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill in
Alaska, which released 10.9 million gallons of crude oil.Cleanup was
expected to take weeks and cost tens of millions of dollars.
According to the TVA, rain totaling six inches in ten days and 12°F
temperatures were factors that contributed to the failure of the
The 40-acre pond was used to contain ash created by the coal-burning
plant. The water and ash that were released in the accident
were filled with toxic substances. Each year coal preparation
creates waste containing an estimated 13 tons of mercury, 3236 tons
of arsenic, 189 tons of beryllium, 251 tons of cadmium, and 2754
tons of nickel, and 1098 tons of selenium.