Independent water quality tests conducted by environmental activists show high levels of arsenic and other toxins in river water near the site of a massive coal ash spill in Tennessee and several miles downstream.
The samples were collected about one to two weeks after 1.1 billion gallons of ash sludge and water breached an earthen containment area at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant, about 40 miles west of Knoxville. No one was seriously injured in the spill, but several residents were displaced.
The high levels of contaminants were found only in river water, not in private wells.
Arsenic levels as high as 48 times the primary drinking water standard were found in river water nearest the spill and two to 20 times the drinking water standard 4 1/2 miles downstream.
The results suggest a continuing risk as TVA’s $1 million-a-day cleanup continues.
“Leaving the ash sitting on the riverbanks and in the river will endanger public health and the environment. Every time it rains, the ash will continue to leach heavy metals and further contaminate the watershed,” Jeff Stant of the Environmental Integrity Project said in a statement.
The group said its testing found levels of arsenic, lead, selenium, cadmium and copper violating water quality standards and levels of arsenic, lead, beryllium and antimony exceeding primary drinking water standards.
State and federal regulators maintain that drinking water from private wells and the Kingston and Rockwood water treatment plants meets or surpasses drinking water standards. Officials previously have said routine municipal water filtration processes will remove contaminants such as arsenic.
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