City finds a fly (ash) in park plan

Clinton City Manager Roger Houck and Clinton City Mayor Scott Burton met with representatives from the Hollingsworth Foundation last Friday to discuss a park that entrepreneur Joe Hollingsworth wants to build in South Clinton.

Representatives from TVA were also present, according to Burton, who spoke about the meeting during Monday’s city council meeting.

“It’s a very unique plan and it’s kind of exciting,” said Burton. “There will be a lot of passive areas, walking trails and bike trails.”

Up to 15 miles of bike trails, according to Burton.

The park could potentially be close to 400 acres.

The catch: Fly ash, also known as coal ash.

Fly ash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is coal combustion residuals, which are created when coal is burned by plants to create electricity.

Specifically, it’s a “very fine, powdery material composed mostly of silica made from the burning of finely ground coal in a boiler.”

Forty-two acres of the proposed site were used back in the early 1990s as a fly ash disposal site. Over a million cubic yards of the ash were brought in and used as fill to level off the site.

It came from TVA’s Bull Run Fossil Plant.

It was capped and passed inspections at the time.

However, since then, there was a major environmental accident involving fly ash in Kingston. On Dec. 22 in 2008, an ash dike ruptured at the Kingston Fossil Plant, releasing 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash slurry.

That’s different than what is in the ground at the proposed site, but still a cause for concern. The ash contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, according to the EPA, which can contaminate waterways, ground water, drinking water and the air.

Because of those concerns, Burton wants to take precautions before agreeing to the development of the park.

“We all know that Kingston changed the perception of fly ash,” he said.

“We need to make sure that the fly ash is safe, even if the ground isn’t going to be disturbed. It’s still encapsulated. We need a higher body to say this is safe for our kids.”

So, the city is going to go through TDEC for an opinion and further testing.

“I’d like them to come out and reinspect the site to make sure it’s safe,” Houck said.

Houck estimated that it was last inspected around 2008, when Hollingsworth first presented his idea to council.

“It’s definitely a positive,” Houck said.

“(Joe) Hollingsworth has set up a foundation that will fund this project and take care of the maintenance of it.

“Once everybody gets ahead of the issue of the fly ash, it will be possible,” Houck continued.

Vice-mayor Zach Farrar said it was a perfect example of private enterprise stepping in and helping with the development and vision of what he and others have for the city.

“We have this beautiful river and we’ll be able to fully access it and develop that resource for the betterment of our community,” he added.