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TVA seeks feedback on potential changes to coal ash storage at Cumberland plant

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TVA seeks feedback on potential changes to coal ash storage at Cumberland plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking feedback on the future handling and storage of coal ash byproducts at its Cumberland coal-fired power plant in Stewart County, Tenn. In a notice in the Dec. 5 Federal Register, the utility said it is preparing an environmental impact statement that will address the long-term management of coal combustion residuals, or CCRs, produced at the power plant.

The utility is considering options for building a new dry storage lined landfill for future CCR product disposal at the plant and will also look at potentially shuttering the bottom ash and main ash ponds at the Cumberland site. Additionally, TVA is examining the possible impacts from constructing a dewatering facility to eliminate moisture from the bottom ash stream.

In a final EIS released in June, TVA recommended the storage-in-place option. In August, the utility made the decision to permanently store coal ash in place at 10 of its coal-fired power plants instead of digging the ash up and moving it elsewhere. Eliminating wet storage at its coal plants will help TVA comply with the U.S. EPA's rule on CCRs, which set requirements for coal ash sites at active power plants. The impetus for the EPA rule was a major coal ash spill at the TVA's Kingston plant in 2008.

A coalition of environmental groups, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, jointly opposed TVA's plan. The coalition called the final EIS "fundamentally flawed" because it did not include site-specific analyses of the impacts of storage-in-place on groundwater and surface water, which the group called an alarming omission.

The EIS for Cumberland also will identify current environmental and socioeconomic resources in the area that could be affected by changes in the way CCRs are managed at the plant.

Public comments will be accepted through Jan. 6, 2017, according to the utility.