TDEC officials outline plan for Bull Run containment

  • TDEC’s Robert Wilkinson talks testing during Monday’s presentation. - Ken Leinart

  • TDEC’s Rob Burnette holds a display of the Bull Run Steam Plant site while Chuck Head points out the various locations where fly ash is known to be stored, as well as a proposed site for a future landfill. - Ken Leinart

Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is looking at/working with eight Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) sites to ensure potential hazardous byproducts of those sites are properly contained and/or disposed of.

One of those sites is the TVA Bull Run Steam Plant, slated to be shut down by 2023.

“We’re not just looking at the actions being taken now,” TDEC Assistant Commissioner Chuck Head said Monday night during a meeting of the Anderson County Intergovernmental Committee. “We’re looking at the entire footprint of the site.”

Head, CCR Technical Manager Robert Wilkinson, CCR Program Manager Rob Burnette, and CCR Consultant Angela Adams presented TDEC’s plan for monitoring the Bull Run site.

TDEC, Head noted, is conducting an environmental investigation plan — an EIP — on what has been and what will be done at the Bull Run site.

The big concern is the fly ash by-product the steam plant produced.

TDEC mission, Head said, is to establish a transparent and comprehensive process for the investigation, assessment, and remediation of unacceptable risks, resulting from the management and disposal of coal combustion residuals (CCR).

TDEC is also tasked with implementation of the federal CCR rule to insure coordination and compliance with Tennessee laws and regulations that govern the management and disposal of CCR.

To make it sound more simple than it really is: TDEC is tasked with making sure the closure of Bull Run and disposal of fly ash — the CCR — is done properly.

Head said that will include looking at how the material was treated and stored in the past as well as how it is being cleaned up and maintained now and in the future,

He called it an “Investigative plan.”

And it will look at everything, sample everything, test everything, and then assess what has been found and work from there.

Head noted that air, water, water table, surface and deep soil, fish tissue, and even insect samples will be looked at. TDEC and TVA will both conduct these tests, but those tests will be done separately and independent of each other.

“Hopefully the end results will be the same,” Head pointed out.

If not the task is to find out why there are differences.

Much of the testing is already underway is being down at the same time by TDEC and TVA.

Also while TDEC forms its plan they will be looking for other potential hazards.

One member in the audience said there used to be a sign behind Bull Run that identified it as an ash dump site, but that location was not shown on a display TDEC brought of the Bull Run plant.

Head noted that Bull Run, as well as the other sites in Tennessee the agency is tasked with overseeing, are 50 or 60 years old.

Many areas within the sites, he said, may have been forgotten about. TDEC will work out a history of the plants in question and try to fill in any gaps where paperwork — work orders and so forth — have been lost. It’s a long process, he warned.

The final plan will hopefully be completed in 18 months, but he said it may take longer.

Once the plan is outlined, Head pointed out, there will be a report —an estimated 1,000 pages worth — and more public input will be sought.