KINGSTON, TN Follow Up

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From: Cahaba River Society [info@cahabariversociety.org] Sent: Fri 12/11/2009 4:25 PM
To: Ryan Reardon
Cc:
Subject: EPA ORDERS TEMPORARY STOP TO COAL ASH LEACHATE DISPOSAL AT FAILING MARION WASTEWATER PLANT
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EPA ORDERS TEMPORARY STOP TO COAL ASH LEACHATE DISPOSAL AT FAILING MARION WASTEWATER PLANT
TENNESSEE COAL ASH POLLUTION WAS ENDING UP IN A CAHABA TRIBUTARY
Dear CRS Members,
CRS learned last week that leachate from the landfill accepting coal ash from the worst industrial pollution accident in U.S. history has been inadequately treated at a wastewater plant that was already violating its permit, then discharged into Rice Creek, a Cahaba tributary.  The major pollutant, ammonia, is also causing odor, breathing and other health problems for people living around the open lagoon where the leachate is stored, according to members of the Marion community.
Due to concerns raised by CRS and other environmental and social justice groups about this and the broader air, odor, health and water quality problems caused by disposal of the Kingston coal ash spill in a Perry County, Alabama landfill, EPA has ordered that the leachate can no longer be trucked to the Marion wastewater treatment plant – but this may only be a temporary reprieve.
CRS has been working with several organizations to get information about impacts of the coal ash disposal and to inform EPA and ADEM of our concerns. CRS has sent 2 letters to EPA outlining a host of concerns and asking that EPA coordinate all the parties to get these questions answered swiftly. If concerns about potential pollution of surface and groundwater by ammonia, heavy metals, and other serious contaminants cannot be addressed, EPA should rescind its approval to use the Arrowhead Landfill for coal ash disposal. We continue to be in conversation with EPA and ADEM to press for quick action.
More info:
A year ago, on Dec 22nd, 2008, the Tennesse Valley Authority’s Kingston Coal-Fired Electric Plant had a massive spill of “coal-fly ash”.  This is the ash left over after burning coal.  A slurry of water and 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash spilled from containment ponds, inundating 300 acres, the Emory River, and portions of a nearby community.  Remarkably, only one person was directly injured and only 3 homes have been condemned.  There has been a fatality associated with the clean-up activities.
TVA and EPA emergency response first focused on removing the ash from the Emory River and other adjacent water bodies.  EPA approved a TVA plan to dispose of this coal ash in a Perry County, Alabama landfill.
The landfill is located outside of the Cahaba watershed.  However, just before Thanksgiving, we learned from Nelson Brook, the Black Warrior RiverKeeper, that the “Arrowhead Landfill” is trucking landfill leachate to the City of Marion’s municipal wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) that discharges to Rice Creek, a tributary of the Cahaba River.  Upon investigation, we found that WWTP has had water quality permit violations in 8 of the last 12 quarterly reports and in general is probably not equipped to handle this industrial waste product.  
Significantly, ammonia was one of the pollutants that has been far out of compliance at the wastewater plant – and ammonia is a major pollutant in the coal ash leachate.
Before the leachate was subjected to treatment at the WWTP, it was being deposited in a sludge lagoon near the facility.  Unfortunately, very serious odor problems, probably from high ammonia levels and volitile bacterial degradation products from the leachate, were resulting from discharging the leachate into the lagoon.  This was undoubtedly an unbearable situation for those nearby residents.
John Wathen, the Hurricane CreekKeeper, documented a variety of problems with the landfill and the sludge lagoon and generously shared that information with us.  Myra Crawford, the Cahaba RiverKeeper also visited the site, collecting helpful information she shared with us.  We greatly appreciate their help in understanding this situation.  Also, David Ludder, an environmental lawyer had previously filed 60-day notices of intent to sue the City of Marion (in February 2008) over ongoing violations at the WWTP that had been occurring since August of 2003 and, on behalf of clients in the neighborhood, has written letters to the landfill owners and the City of Marion demanding that a variety of environmental violations cease.  All of these efforts firmly established that appropriate management of the leachate was not occurring.
CRS contacted Stanley Meiburg, Acting Director of Region 4 EPA with our concerns about this poor management and the inability of the Marion WWTP to adequately treat the leachate, and we appreciated his quick response.  We learned yesterday that Mr. Meiburg has asked the Arrowhead Landfill to cease trucking leachate to the Marion WWTP.  Instead, the leachate is being sent to a different municipal wastewater facility in Demopolis, AL until the Marion WWTP is upgraded to a more appropriate capability.  
The Arrowhead Landfill operators and Perry County officials want to receive more coal ash, which is proving to be a money-maker. There is another 2.5 million cubic yards at Kingston that EPA is currently deciding what to do with, and the landfill is also considering becoming the coal ash repository for other coal-fired power plants.
We are not convinced that current regulations adequately protect against the potential contamination of surface and groundwaters from toxic heavy metals.  For example, could heavy metals make their way through various containment and treatment processes to bioaccumulate in fish and other river life, worsening the problems already caused by bioaccumulation of mercury in fish that comes from coal-fired power plant air pollution? CRS continues to be very concerned and will track improvements to the Marion WWTP, revisions to its discharge permit, and other water threats.


Article from The Birmingham News: December 11, 2009
Perry landfill redirects wastewater

By TOM GORDON

News staff writer
The controversial Perry County landfill now taking coal ash shipments from the Tennessee Valley Authority has stopped sending its wastewater to the sewage treatment plant in the county seat of Marion .

Mike Smith, an attorney for the Arrowhead Landfill, said the shipments of waste water, or leachate, stopped Dec. 4.  The decision was made because landfill officials recently learned that several times in past years the Marion plant had “exceeded its permitted limits” for ammonia as nitrogen, Smith said.  Ammonia as nitrogen is an element common in wastewater, and the plant can treat it under its state permit.

“We have not ceased taking anything to them on account of what’s in the leachate,” Smith said.  “It has to do with their permit in a general sense.” Smith said.

Carl Terry, a spokesman for the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Atlanta , said the wastewater that formerly went to Marion is now going to a treatment plant in Demopolis.  Terry also said EPA had sent an investigator last week to the Marion plant.  The Alabama Attorney General’s Office also has a suit pending against Marion , filed in 2008 and charging the town’s wastewater plant and water treatment plant with violating the Alabama Water Pollution Control Act.

The sprawling landfill, near the town of Uniontown in southern Perry County , opened a little more than two years ago as a solid waste disposal facility and receives garbage regularly from a number of nearby communities.  Since July, it has been taking in coal ash spilled when an earthen dam collapsed last December at the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant in Roane County , Tenn.

Critics of the landfill say it does not have the necessary state permit to ship its wastewater to the plant in Marion .

E-MAIL: tgordon@bhamnews.com


To Restore and Protect the Cahaba River watershed and its rich diversity of Life…

Randall C. Haddock, PhD
Cahaba River Society
2717 7th Ave., South, Suite 205
Birmingham, AL  35233
205 322-5326 ext 412
This message was sent from Cahaba River Society to rreardon@asfa.k12.al.us. It was sent from: Cahaba River Society, 2717 7th Ave South, Suite 205, Birmingham, AL 35233. You can modify/update your subscription via the link below. Email Marketing by
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