TVA is offering bait on a cruel hook


“A Disneyland park on a pile of poison.”

That’s my songwriter friend Maggie Longmire’s take on TVA’s lovely artist’s rendering of the soon-to-be-demolished Bull Run Fossil Plant’s repurposed site.

For Mayor Terry Frank and our other officials — for all of us — the cost-effective solar array, parklike features, and economy-boosting data center that TVA dangles in its vision as a community dream come true.

But all that is bait on a cruel hook: TVA plans to forever abandon in place Bull Run’s millions of tons of toxic coal ash unless we and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation force it to safely remove it to dry, lined, and capped storage far from water and people. TVA’s own tests show the notoriously-blowing dry fly ash stack beside the Claxton playground and ballfields is already contaminating groundwater. And Bull Run’s remaining wet fly ash pond is literally submerged in groundwater, and extends far into the reservoir from which Anderson County and much of Knox County drinks — and its toxins are already contaminating the Hallsdale-Powell Utility District’s drinking water.

TVA’s dams and electricity have lifted our valley from poverty. But we now know TVA’s historic mission— to provide abundant, affordable power while also protecting our environment — simply cannot be done with toxic, climate-wrecking fossil energy. And our community’s Kingston coal ash cleanup survivors, many now dying because they were refused protection, poignantly remind us coal ash is truly evil stuff. It’s scrubbed from our air for very good reasons. It doesn’t belong in our water, either.

TVA has dragged its feet, and dragged its name in the mud, on protecting its workers and its neighbors from coal ash, offering nothing beyond nice words and pretty pictures unless it’s forced to.

TVA now says it wants our community to decide Bull Run’s future. Let’s hold them to their word.

Our uniquely informed, united, and determined community and officials won a great victory in blocking TVA’s despised plan for a new dry fly ash landfill beside hundreds of homes. Now we know how powerful we are when we work together. On Thursday, July 23, tentatively from 5 to 7 p.m., TVA will present its plans for Bull Run’s site at a virtual open house, during which we can question TVA and comment (see next Wednesday’s Courier for details). On that day, our voices must rise as one to tell TVA neither we nor any coveted business will accept the site, however lovely, until we know it and our community will not be forever contaminated with coal ash.

John Todd