Cumberland Steam Plant

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Cumberland Steam Plant is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority near Cumberland City, Tennessee.

The Cumberland power station has two coal-fired generating units and "net dependable generating capacity" of approximately 2,530 megawatts. TVA states that "the plant consumes some 7,200 tons of coal a day." Construction of the Cumberland power station commenced in 1968 and was commissioned in 1973. According to the TVA the "plant consumes about 20,000 tons of coal a day."[1]

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Plant Data

TVA at the Crossroads, produced by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
  • Owner/Parent Company: Tennessee Valley Authority
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 2,600 MW
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 1,300 MW (1973), 1,300 MW (1973)
  • Location: 815 Cumberland City Rd., Cumberland City, TN 37050
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.391944, -87.655556
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source: Highland 9 Mine
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 19,049,068 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 18,352 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 34,360 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 240 lb.

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Cumberland Steam Plant

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[2] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[3]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Cumberland Steam Plant

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 57 $420,000,000
Heart attacks 83 $9,100,000
Asthma attacks 940 $49,000
Hospital admissions 41 $950,000
Chronic bronchitis 34 $15,000,000
Asthma ER visits 56 $21,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Coal waste

2010 study on Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that Tennessee, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that was not regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[4] The report mentioned Tennessee's Cumberland Steam Plant, Gallatin Fossil Plant and Johnsonville Fossil Plant as three sites that have groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[5]

2011 tests find groundwater contamination

In July 2011, tests found coal ash contamination in the groundwater of all but one of the 10 Tennessee Valley Authority plants assessed, including two sites where investigators say the pollution could pose a health hazard. The inspector general’s assessment pointed in particular to the contamination at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and Cumberland Steam Plant in Tennessee. Excessive levels of arsenic and other toxic metals from coal ash were detected at Cumberland, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, while beryllium, cadmium and nickel were discovered at Gallatin.

In addition, the inspector general said that TVA officials for more than 10 years have found indications that toxic metals could be leaking from a coal ash pond at the authority’s Allen Fossil Plant. Arsenic above currently allowable levels was found repeatedly in a monitoring well at the site, which lies above a deep, high-quality aquifer that supplies drinking water to Memphis and nearby areas.

A TVA spokeswoman told the newspaper in an email that, at the time of the testing at Allen, the contamination levels were within limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. However, the inspector general’s report said that arsenic levels exceeded a tighter standard later adopted by the EPA.[6]

Other coal waste sites

To see a nationwide list of over 350 coal waste sites in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal waste sites in a particular state, click on the map:

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"High Hazard" Surface Impoundment

In July 2009, TVA reclassified the surface impoundment at Cumberland as having High Hazard Potential. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event. TVA had originally ranked all of its sites as "low" risk, but revised those rankings two weeks after the EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard" coal ash dumps.[7]

Citizen groups

References

  1. Tennessee Valley Authority, "Cumberland Fossil Plant", Tennessee Valley Authority website, accessed June 2008.
  2. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  3. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  4. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  5. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  6. "Toxic Metals from Coal Ash Found in Groundwater at TVA Power Plants" Fair Warning, July 26, 2011.
  7. Coal waste

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