NASHVILLE, Tenn. - One year ago, millions of gallons metal-laced water spilled when the levy at TVA's Kingston coal ash pond failed. TVA has spent the last year checking the stability of all its coal ash ponds.
There are seven TVA steam plants in Tennessee. Four use some kind of coal ash pond, but the pond TVA has been most focused on is in Humphreys County at its Johnsonville plant.
The Johnsonville ash pond sits in the middle of the Tennessee River.
TVA took NewsChannel 5 where few TV crews have gone before, on a tour of its island ash pond. There are 40-foot dikes that hold back 30 feet of ash-laced water.
"We have people on this site inspecting our dikes daily," said TVA's Coal Combustion Product Management general manager Alan Casaday.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates learned TVA is more concerned about the Johnsonville ash pond than any other.
Independent engineers stated in a June report, "There are significant concerns relative to the integrity of the structure."
"We constantly monitor it now," said Casaday. "We have 32 instruments that we constantly take readings from."
Casaday said the agency has spent more than $600,000 since the summer making the pond more secure. TVA has lowered the water level and added a new spillway.
"That plant is probably the most similar to the Kingston Plant," said Bruce Tschantz who was part of a state advisory board that looked for lessons to be learned from the Kingston ash spill.
"Facilities of this type unfortunately and sadly fell between the cracks," said Tschantz.
He's criticized TVA's management for regulating ash ponds like landfills instead of labeling them as dams which have much higher and more expensive safety standards.
"It was a real bad decision not to put it under dam safety. I think the real practical tragedy is that the public is hurt," said Tschantz.
Casaday said TVA has put all its ash ponds under its dam safety program.
"Why weren't these treated as dams before?" asked investigative reporter Ben Hall to Alan Casaday.
"Before we weren't following the guidelines we are committed to today," said Casaday.
The engineer report also questioned maintenance at the Johnsonville plant. It stated, "There is a trend of not all maintenance recommendations being executed."
"These are lessons we have learned," said Casaday. "We've changed. We are committed to change."
The biggest change is that TVA plans to close all its ash ponds in the next 10 years at cost of up to $2 billion.
"We are committed to close this site, and that's what we're working towards. Everything you see here today is working towards closure," said Casaday.
TVA plans to close the Johnsonville ash pond first by 2016. The ash will be trucked to a landfill, and the island will be covered in grass.
"I do hope they change their attitude and their way of looking at these high risk structures," said Tschantz.
Critics said it should not have taken a disaster like Kingston for ash ponds to get the attention they deserve. TVA claimed it has learned its lesson.
"We have taken everything to a new level at TVA," said Casaday.
TVA said the Johnsonville ash pond is stable. It is made of clay which is different from Kingston.