State regulators have confirmed the presence of radioactive coal ash waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority at an Anderson County playground – backing up findings from a Duke University study last year which first revealed the threat to children playing there.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Department of Health released a report on Tuesday that confirms the presence of toxic TVA waste at the Kids Palace Playground in Claxton and that children exposed to charcoal ash are more likely to develop cancer than those who are not exposed to it. radioactive waste.
The report confirms the findings of a Duke University study, published in July 2021, on coal ash contamination in the playground. The report states that from coal ash, the radioactive waste produced by power plants coal-fired electric heaters, were detected in soil samples taken from under the park’s swings in December.
The state’s study confirmed the presence of radioactive materials and toxins, including radium, cobalt and lead, and dangerous levels of arsenic in the ground beneath the swings. But the Tennessee Health Department wrote that children’s risk of “excess cancers” from litter is low, and children who play there can be protected with extra layers of soil and mulch.
“The most conservative excess cancer risk (due to arsenic) was about two excess cancers in a million children,” the state report said. “The total risk for combined radium 226 + 228 would be estimated to be…about four lifetime excess cancers in a million people…While this estimated additional cancer risk is not zero, the additional risk is very small, particularly by compared to the normal risk that people will develop cancer during their lifetime.
“This estimated excess cancer risk should not lead to a significant increase in cancer risk for children play in the playground and there should be no adverse health effects from amounts of arsenic found in park or playground soils,” the report said.
“Proper maintenance designed to keep coal ash residue under the geofiber layers and mulch will ensure there is no exposure,” the report continues. “The Tennessee Department of Health, as a prudent public health action and to eliminate any possibility of exposure, recommends repairing areas of soil under swing sets and adding new mulch throughout the grounds. game.”
TVA did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.
TVA laboratory used
The playing field is immediately adjacent to a massive mound of TVA’s radioactive coal ash waste at the Bull Run Power Plant, and TVA officials admitted – after the Duke University study was made public – that coal ash was used as “filler material” in construction. of the playground in 2000. TVA also used radioactive coal ash in the construction of a sports field next to the playground.
TVA still owns the playground and sports field, but leases it to Anderson County.
TDEC, which is responsible for regulating TVA’s storage of radioactive coal ash in Tennessee, was alerted more than two years ago that toxic waste piled up at the Bull Run plant was blowing across the playground but n haven’t done anything to test the ground or the air.
Duke University coal ash expert Dr. Avner Vengosh included the Claxton Playground in a 2020 study he and his researchers were already conducting in North Carolina.
After Duke’s study found TVA coal ash waste on the playground last year, the Anderson County Commission refused to close the playground but asked TDEC to conduct their own study.
Although TDEC hired a private company to conduct its sampling, TVA played an active role in this process, the state report revealed.
“TVA split (or shared) soil samples with TDEC,” the report said. “Much of the soil was collected from five separate points at each location. After the sample was thoroughly mixed, TDEC took part of the soil for testing and TVA received another part for testing.
The report reveals that TDEC and TVA used the same lab – TVA contractor RJ Lee Group Laboratory in Pennsylvania – to examine the samples for the presence of radioactive coal ash waste.
“The lab reported that most samples were at least 98% free of coal ash,” the state report said. “Two samples had a coal ash content of six percent and nine percent (and were) collected
under the swings in the northeast and northwest areas of the playground.
“These locations were where worn areas under the swings were observed,” the report said. “These worn areas exposed deeper soils beneath the top layers of mulch, soil and torn and worn geofabric used to cover the deeper soil subbase of the playground. samples that the geofiber layers were worn in the areas below the swings.
Sampling was carried out in December. Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank was present when TVA and TDEC observed and photographed erosion under the swings, according to the report. But the park remained open until February, when the county temporarily closed it to repair “torn and worn landscape fabric,” according to a news release. It was reopened in March and remains open.
“We would like to thank Anderson County for already taking action to repair the worn areas under both sets of swing sets, as well as the slide, swing and monkey bar areas on the playground,” says the report released on Tuesday.
“The Tennessee Department of Health also recommends Anderson County parks prepare and follow an operations and maintenance plan to regularly inspect the playground, repair damaged areas, and add
additional mulch in areas where the mulch has worn away,” the report continues.
“(Through maintenance), Claxton Community Park and Playground can continue to be a place of play for children and their families,” the report concludes.