Water Safe, Cleanup Under Way In Tenn. Dike Burst

The Tennessee Valley Authority is reporting progress in cleaning up the sludge that coated a Tennessee neighborhood after a dike burst at a power plant Monday.

Preliminary tests suggest there is no danger to millions of people who get their drinking water from the 652-mile Tennessee River. Hundreds of acres in east Tennessee remain under a thick layer of coal ash sludge.

The Kingston Fossil Plant, where the spill took place, generates electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes in the region. The plant is at a confluence of two rivers and a lake. The coal ash, which had been stacked as high as 55 feet in places, broke through an earthen dike that contained it.

"It was like a big landslide, except it was ash and sludge," NPR's Tamara Keith tells Linda Wertheimer. It knocked a home off its foundation and covered roads and railroad tracks. About 12 homes were affected, three of which have been condemned.

Crews worked through Christmas Day to try to clean up the mess, "but this is not a one-day project by any means," Keith says.

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