Dike bursts, flooding homes in Tenn.

December 22, 2008 8:22:26 AM PST
A retention pond wall collapsed early Monday morning at a power plant run by the nation's largest public utility, releasing a mixture of water and ash that flooded 15 homes nearby. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The 40-acre pond was used by the Tennessee Valley Authority as a containment area for ash generated by the coal-burning Kingston Steam Plant in Harriman, about 50 miles west of Knoxville, said TVA spokesman Gil Francis. An earthen wall gave way just before 1 a.m., flooding the road and railroad tracks leading to the plant.

No one was seriously injured or needed to be taken to the hospital, said Howie Rose, the director of the Roane County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. WVLT-TV reported that two people had to be rescued from their homes but had only minor injuries.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been notified, Francis said. Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what caused the flood, but he said heavy rains and freezing temperatures may be to blame. The National Weather Service reported it was only 14 degrees just before 6 a.m. in Harriman.

According to Francis, the area usually receives about 2.8 inches of rain in December. There's been about 4.9 inches of rain so far this month, Francis said.

Crews are working to clear debris in the neighborhood on Swan Pond Circle Road, Rose said. The extent of the damage is still unknown. Crews are waiting for daybreak to fully assess the damage.

"That will help us get a much clearer picture," Francis said.

Knoxville-based TVA supplies electricity to 8.8 million consumers in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

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