Assessing the Ash Spill

When a dike failed at the Kingston Steam Plant, it appeared to be an unprecedented disaster. But scientist have some surprising information about its environmental impact.


When it occurred, it was one of the largest natural disasters in Tennessee history. Almost five years ago, a dike failed at the T-V-A’s Kingston fossil plant, spilling over five million cubic yards of coal ash. The ash quickly spread over more than three hundred acres of surrounding countryside, including the nearby Emory River. Many nearby residents were displaced and predictions of dire consequences for wildlife in the area were common. Recovery efforts presented the TVA and the TWRA with some unprecedented challenges and tough choices. Today, after costing billions of dollars, the nearly completed recovery is revealing some surprising results for biologists and other researchers…people like MTSU professor Ryan Otter who is using spiders to help determine how much the environment has been impacted. Wild Side Guide Alan Griggs revisits Kingston and discovers the age-old saying is true: Good things do not come easy. But in this case, they do come.

The Kingston recovery project is expected to be completed by 2015 but monitoring of the affected area and the wildlife living there will go on for decades. From a disaster area of unprecedented destruction, the public will soon enjoy a variety of recreational opportunities at the site including picnicking and sports. All part of the goal of returning the ash spill area to a better condition that it was before.

If you are interested in more detailed information about some of the research, you can read these peer-reviewed papers written by Dr. Otter. The first is related to fish studies and the other is his first publication related to his spider research.

From show 2607.

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