Environmentalists Concerned On Effects Of Huge TVA Coal Ash Spill

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Environmentalists are expressing concern about the effects of a huge overflow of coal ash from a TVA facility near Harriman, Tn.

Concerns include any possible effect on the drinking water at Chattanooga, which comes from the Tennessee River.

Officials of the Tennessee-American Water Company could not immediately be reached.

TVA officials also have not yet responded to emails or issued any press releases on the situation, though TVA President Tom Kilgore earlier in the week appeared at a press conference on the matter.

Carol Kimmons, arts and education director of the Sequatchie Valley Institute, said, "On Monday at 1 a.m., a coal slurry impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal fired power plant in Harriman spilled at least 525 million gallons of toxic coal ash into the Tennessee River and surrounding areas.

"The Kingston spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, if local news accounts are correct. This is a huge environmental
disaster of epic proportions; approximately 525 million gallons of nasty black coal ash flowed into tributaries of the Tennessee River - the water supply for Chattanooga and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

"In October 2000, the Big Branch coal slurry spill dumped 306 million gallons of toxic coal slurry down 100 miles of waterways. An EPA official called it 'one of the worst environmental disasters in the
Southeastern United States.' And this spill is 'at least 70% bigger'

"A CT&E Environmental Services analysis of coal slurry from a sample taken n December 2001 downstream from the Big Branch disaster found levels of lead 400 times higher than the EPA limit, beryllium 160 times the EPA limit, etc. Coal contains huge amounts of heavy metals, and when coal is burned, the organic matter burns off, but many of the nasty chemicals stick around, in higher concentrations. Also, coal is 'washed' using some really nasty chemicals, which are also left over in coal slurry. The bottom line: coal slurry is really, really toxic stuff.

"Ironically, on the same day as this massive spill, 39 groups wrote a letter to Obama asking that he overturn a pending Bush administration federal rule change that would ease regulations on the disposal of coal waste:

"There’s been a campaign for many years against Massey’s Shumate coal sludge impoundment in Sundial, W.Va., which sits 150 feet above the Marsh Fork Elementary School, and holds 2.8 billion gallons (a group in West Virginia has been collecting pennies in order to save enough money to relocate the school).

"This disaster proves that regulations around coal slurry impoundments need to be tightened, not loosened.

"But more important than that, this disaster clearly demonstrates what we've been saying for years: coal ain’t clean. It’s really, really dirty. It’s dirty from cradle to grave. And most of the time, the toxic aftermath of the coal industry is hidden in slurry ponds, or pumped into abandoned coal mines, and its effects are secondary and very difficult to measure.

"But disasters like this demonstrate what the coal industry doesn’t want us to know: there’s no clean way to burn coal."

Bloggers Kevin and Jenny Bartoy said, "On Monday, over 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash sludge was released from a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant when a dike at the waste pond completely failed. Constructed in the 1960s, the dike had previously small failures over the course of its history, but nothing of this magnitude had occurred.

"The toxic sludge destroyed 12 homes, but no one was injured by the torrent of toxins that rushed through Harriman, Tn., and into tributaries of the Tennessee River. The toxic sludge has already resulted in a tremendous fish kill that immediately followed in its aftermath. The TVA is now promising to work through the holidays to test the sludge, which without question contains mercury and high levels of heavy metals, such as lead and arsenic.

"This catastrophe has now released toxins directly into tributaries of the Tennessee River, which provides drinking water for Chattanooga as well as hundreds of other downstream communities in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

"Just to put this disaster into perspective, the Exxon Valdez released just under 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. The catastrophe at Harriman is almost 50 times greater than that in Alaska. And, I bet that you haven't heard a word about it in the news.

"How can an environmental catastrophe of such magnitude occur and our media be so silent?

"If you think that I am exaggerating about the devastation, look for yourself at the photos at:


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