Breaking: Second TVA coal ash pond ruptures — at Widows Creek coal plant

TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.You can’t out-irony real life. The Tennessean has the story:

TVA is investigating a leak from a gypsum pond at its Widows Creek coal-burning power plant in northeastern Alabama….

Seriously, Widows Creek coal plant? What PR guy thought that up? The same genius behind Frosty the Coalman, Clean Coal Night, Deck the Halls with Clean Coal?

TVA says the leak has stopped, but not before “some materials flowed into Widows Creek.” At least they won’t have to change the creek’s name. The story continues:

Gypsum is a byproduct of coal-burning power plants when “scrubbers” are added that use limestone spray to clean air emissions. This pulls sulfur dioxide from the emissions.

Tighter air emissions controls result in additional waste byproducts. Gypsum can be used in building materials.

As always, the enviros are really to blame. If it weren’t for their pesky laws, the pollutants would be in the air where they belong.

Scott Hughes, spokesman for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management said, “The only thing we’ve got right now is that there was a release from a gypsum treatment operation.”
Gypsum can be sold for use in wallboard, but markets have been slow and it, like more standard ash, can build up in waste ponds.

“We’re in the process of gathering more info and getting a full report.”

Kingston is the scene of a TVA ash pond that ruptured: Early on the morning of Dec. 22, more than a billion gallons of sludge flowed out of the pond, damaging a dozen homes and creating environmental havoc along the Emory River.

The Widows Creek Fossil Plant is located on Guntersville Reservoir on the Tennessee River. It has eight coal-fired units and was completed in 1965. The plant consumes about 10,000 tons of coal a day. The ash from that coal was in the pond that broke there.

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10 Responses to Breaking: Second TVA coal ash pond ruptures — at Widows Creek coal plant

  1. Lessons not learned will be repeated.

  2. Wes Rolley says:

    So, tell me again why Dick Durbin wants to build the NextGEN plant in IL. Oh, it is in IL… must be a good idea.

    The more we allow coal to go unchecked, the worse it is going to be for us all.

    This is not a case where we need significant new legislation. We need a government,especially EPA, that will enforce the laws that we have.

    Wes Rolley
    CoChair, EcoAction Committee, Green Party US

  3. Jay Alt says:

    6 of the plant’s boilers use low-sulfur coal so they would not be producing gypsum. Two others supplement the coal with petroleum coke and they are using the limestone.

    Widows Creek set a dubious record of 2+ years without a shutdown. They burn a lot of coal.

    Toxics Release Inventory, 2007

    266 lbs mercury into the air, 306 lbs mercury going into solid waste
    – – –
    Wes writes –
    So, tell me again why Dick Durbin wants to build the NextGEN plant in IL. Oh, it is in IL… must be a good idea.

    Since you asked –

    Slagging IGCC boilers are operated under conditions in which fly-ash is melted into glassy pebbles. They can be used for aggregate. It could be a challenge to use all of it, but certainly not more than some others we face. A vitreous slag locks in heavy metals, which are rendered non-leachable into the water supply and soil.

  4. You DID know that coal ash contains uranium, didn’t you? In fact, coal contains so much uranium and thorium that more [nuclear] energy goes into the coal ash than the coal fired power plant produces. Coal fired power plants put 100 to 400 times as much radiation into the environment as nuclear power plants.
    Do you really want coal ash in your walls? Oh, I almost forgot the arsenic, lead and all of those other heavy metals.

  5. paulm says:

    Good article on tipping events…

    “Predict and survive” – or not
    can we forecast sudden, possibly catastrophic environmental changes by monitoring long-term trends?

  6. paulm: No. It is a lot more complicated than that, but monitoring the CO2 in the air is required. Subscribe to

  7. Dano says:

    If we had started monitoring the environment and collecting more data decades ago, we might be able to apply environmental management techniques and scenario analysis to help our decision-making. It may be too late now.



  8. Bob Wallace says:

    It might be too late now, but does it make sense to even consider that a possibility?

    If your ship is sinking and you’ve got no lifeboat you bail as hard as you can and shout for help as loudly as you can.

    You might get lucky and stay afloat a bit longer and have another vessel come into hearing distance.

    If you don’t bail and shout you will drown.

  9. beefeater says:

    Such is the enduring legacy of FDR’s “New Deal”. The TVA is now coming back to destroy life on this planet. So much for wise government control of corporations. How do you sue the TVA, it’s a government owned Enterprise.

  10. Dano says:

    At the risk of appearing confusing, Bob, I argue the same thing here.

    My basic premise for the comment above is that there will be big ecosystem changes (regime change), which will require large-scale human adaptation.