January 2004 Meeting

Monday, January 12, 2004
6:00 - 7:30 pm

Pellissippi State Technical Community College
10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville
Lamar Alexander Building
Room 223


Environmental Impacts of Coal Tar Contamination
from the Chattanooga Coke Plant, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Dr. Larry D. McKay
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996


Production of coking coal and/or manufactured coal gas were amongst the most common of industrial activities in the late 19th to mid 20th centuries. The Chattanooga Coke Plant in south Chattanooga, Tennessee is typical of the many thousands of such sites in the U.S. Operations at the site between 1918 and 1987 resulted in the release of large volumes of coal tar, PAHs, PCBs, and various solvents, which were often used for cleaning machinery. At the Chattanooga Coke Plant, liquid wastes were disposed of in ponds, piles (for the tarry residue) and in drains, which led directly to Chattanooga Creek. This has led to accumulations of layers of tarry residue up to 4 feet thick in the creek bottom. The UT Center for Environmental Biotechnology is leading a multi-disciplinary research effort to address environmental problems related to the coking operations. These include investigations of subsurface transport of coal tar compounds; the effectiveness of dredging as a means of removing coal tar-contaminated creek sediments, the influence of flooding as a mechanism for spreading contamination, and the environmental health effects of coal tar exposure, particularly as it relates to cardiovascular diseases.


Page updated May 26, 2018