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Plans underway to move Allen Fossil Plant coal ash across Memphis

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The state of Tennessee says nearly everything is in place for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to start moving coal ash off its property in southwest Memphis.

The plan is to move it by truck to a landfill in southeast Memphis.

The work to create a plan to move coal ash off the site of the old Allen Fossil Plant started back in 2016. The plan has seen some roadblocks as concerns about the environmental impact come up from residents.

For decades, coal burned at the Allen Fossil Plant to light and heat homes and businesses in Shelby County. TVA took over the site in 1964, and it stopped burning coal in 2018.

Now, the plan is to truck the coal ash left over across the city to the South Shelby Landfill in the Capleville area.

“We all have the same objective,” said Scott Tunrbow, TVA vice president of civil projects. “We want to protect the Memphis Aquifer. In fact, we want to protect all the natural resources.”

But it’s how they ensure that will happen that has residents asking questions.

At a virtual Q&A Wednesday with TVA, state, and landfill officials, residents asked questions about everything from the permitting process to the transportation method, and of course, how the company will know for sure the Memphis Sand Aquifer is protected.

At the TVA site, officials said monitoring wells are frequently checked for water quality. Those on the panel said removing the coal ash to the South Shelby Landfill is part of ensuring the aquifer’s quality.

“We are talking multiple layers of protection here, including an impermeable clay liner, a few other soil layers, as well as that geosynthetic membrane we talked about that will last in excess of 400 years. So, what we’re talking about is generations of safe management and protection,” said Jason West, general manager of Republic Services, which oversees the landfill.

The removal plan has been investigated by the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation which will monitor the South Shelby Landfill regularly once the coal ash is stored there.

“There’s a lot of evidence to support our thinking that the material is going to be moved to South Shelby and disposed of, and capped and sealed off in an environmentally protective manner. We’re very comfortable with that,” said TDEC’s Pat Flood.

TDEC said there are still some permit approvals to go, but the removal plan could start very soon.

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