A report by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Office of Inspector General found that the groundwater at some coal ash sites is contaminated with arsenic and other toxic pollutants and is a health hazard.
Levels at the Gallatin plant site in Sumner County and at the Cumberland site, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, are at health-hazard levels. Beryllium, cadmium and nickel levels are above drinking water standards at Gallatin, as are arsenic, selenium and vanadium at Cumberland and arsenic was found above allowable levels repeatedly in groundwater at TVA’s’ Allen coal-fired plant in Memphis.
Coal ash, once considered harmless, has been shown to contain a variety of heavy metals in low concentrations that can leach into drinking water sources and pose “significant public health concerns,” an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report has said.
Currently, the EPA is evaluating rules for coal ash waste as a pollutant. If the EPA regulates coal ash waste, it could have a much greater effect on many coal-fired plants in Texas coming into compliance than the new air quality rules will have.