TVA ash spill in NYT

December 26th, 2008


Clean coal?  Ask anyone near TVA’s Kingston Plant… THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL!

Yesterday’s New York Times had the TVA ash spill front and center:

Coal Ash Spill Revives Issues of Hazards

Clean up is going to be a long, slow, costly process, and can it even be cleaned up?

A morning flight over the disaster area showed some cleanup activity along a road and the railroad tracks that take coal to the facility, both heaped in sludge, but no evidence of promised skimmers or barricades on the water to prevent the ash from sliding downstream. The breach occurred when an earthen dike, the only thing separating millions of cubic yards of ash from the river, gave way, releasing a glossy sea of muck, four to six feet thick, dotted with icebergs of ash across the landscape. Where the Clinch River joined the Tennessee, a clear demarcation was visible between the soiled waters of the former and the clear brown broth of the latter.

And here’s a review of the “Issues of Hazards” raised in the article:

But a draft report last year by the federal Environmental Protection Agency found that fly ash, a byproduct of the burning of coal to produce electricity, does contain significant amounts of carcinogens and retains the heavy metal present in coal in far higher concentrations. The report found that the concentrations of arsenic to which people might be exposed through drinking water contaminated by fly ash could increase cancer risks several hundredfold.

Similarly, a 2006 study by the federally chartered National Research Council found that these coal-burning byproducts “often contain a mixture of metals and other constituents in sufficient quantities that they may pose public health and environmental concerns if improperly managed.” The study said “risks to human health and ecosystems” might occur when these contaminants entered drinking water supplies or surface water bodies.

In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed stricter federal controls of coal ash, but backed away in the face of fierce opposition from utilities, the coal industry, and Clinton administration officials. At the time, the Edison Electric Institute, an association of power utilities, estimated that the industry would have to spend up to $5 billion in additional cleanup costs if the substance were declared hazardous. Since then, environmentalists have urged tighter federal standards, and the E.P.A. is reconsidering its decision not to classify the waste as hazardous.

And regarding coal ash dump pollution:

Another 2007 E.P.A. report said that over about a decade, 67 towns in 26 states had their groundwater contaminated by heavy metals from such dumps.

3 Responses to “TVA ash spill in NYT”

  1. John L. Wathen Says:

    I am here on the ground and will be taking samples tomorrow. The scenario here is pretty scary with TVA cops in charge.

    These videos were shot yesterday and today.

    Photos are going to be scarce until tomorrow since the TVA cops are acting like Gestopo. We were threatened with arrest for delivering water to residents in the area. Four carloads of TVA cops swarmed us like we had just bombed the capitol.

    Testing equipment is coming in now and first light in the morning we are going into the spill in kayaks and testing equipment. In all probability we will be arrested but this is too big to hide.

    These folks at United Mountain Defense are doing a great job of getting the real story out. Many national media outlets are calling in and lining up interviews for tomorrow.




    More as it happens tomorrow.

    An unbiased opinion of this is that it is much bigger than anything we have seen in decades.

    John L. Wathen
    Hurricane Creekkeeper

  2. Carol Overland Says:

    The links aren’t working, and I’ll post them as soon as I can get them. THANK YOU FOR UPDATES and will keep on this (will be on road soon, so it might be tough).

  3. Ron Spradlin Says:

    This is a horrible event and it’s terrible to think what future ramifications may be. Unfortunately, many people will now seek to get rich off of these residents’ misery. You know who you are, too. TVA will bend over backwards to make good and should go above and beyond reasonable efforts to make reparations any way they can, but there’s another form of toxic waste out there, the lawyers. Claiming they will “make them pay” but they leave out the “us” part of that sentence. They don’t care about you, but they will be glad to take some of your money for pretending they do. On the flip side, if TVA does NOT do everything possible and even the impossible for these citizens, then let the snakes partake of their flesh. We’ll have to wait and see, but this kind of thing brings out the best in some and the worst in others. The “others” being slime-bag lawyers and the greedy people who falsify information for money they are NOT entitled to, essentially stealing from those who have been impacted. I love East Tennessee and though it looks like at least 10 years before I can return, will always hold that part of our great country close in my heart.

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