The Tennessee Valley Authority is preparing to move decades of coal ash sitting near the Cumberland River in Gallatin, after a settlement with environmental groups.
And before the relocation process begins, TVA says it's hoping for more public involvement.
The utility is forming a new community action group that it says will be made up of Sumner County residents who can bring concerns to TVA. Spokesman Scott Brooks says TVA’s approach will be hands-off.
"They’ll be self-governing. They’ll decide how often they want to meet, what they want to see, what they want to hear, and how engaged they want TVA to be once they get rolling," Brooks said.
TVA hopes this group will be more successful at engaging the public than an open house in Gallatin last week, where fewer than 10 people showed up, not including reporters. Experts had been on hand to speak about the federal utility’s longterm plans to move about 13 million cubic yards of coal ash to an onsite lined landfill.
Brooks calls the open house one of many steps in an overall community outreach.
"We’re being a lot more aggressive about our outreach and our interaction with the community, because we do think it’s an important topic to make sure everyone is informed and aware and that we’re addressing the concerns that are out there," he said.
The utility must submit an official action plan to the state by the end of next year spelling out how it will decommission the unlined landfills on its site.
Once the plan is approved, the coal ash at the Gallatin Fossil Plant will stay on the same site but in a new, state-of-the-art landfill designed to prevent water contamination.