TVA gives worst environmental Christmas present

An environmental disaster of epic proportions just happened in Tennessee and the nation’s new services have hardly mentioned it.. December 22, 2008 at night 2.6 million cubic yards (the equivalent of 525.2 million gallons, 4o times more than the Exxon Valdez spill by volume) of radio-active coal ash sludge broke through a dike of a 40-acre holding pond at TVA’s Kingston coal-fired power plant covering 400 acres up to six feet deep, damaging 12 homes and wrecking a train.tva-pond-kif_aerial_no_t6001

This event represent a failure to maintain an old (some reports say 60-years) dike or embankment that was clearly too close to houses and which contained a fluid that easily got away. It will take time to decide if those to blame are consultants, regulators, or the power plant operators. Most likely it is a combination of all of them, grown happy and complacent with age and the festivities of the season. But we repeat: this is no a mining-related incident.

No such thing as clean burning coal

Clean burning coal – no such thing even if the CO2 could all be removed, you still have so many other toxic waste bi-products like mercury, arsenic, lead, beryllium and cadmium to get rid of safely there is no way it is safe and clean. Burning coal and its carbon emissions are just another part of the problem. What happens to this sludge produced in the mining of coal? It is put in what is called “holding ponds” which are dammed areas that are suppose to hold these poisons back from spilling into the area and getting into the water supply and other wildlife, plants, air and people. This is a big order for these aging dikes or dams. Now most of these structures are aging fast due to extreme weather conditions and poor planning and maintenance so the potential for more disasters like the one on 12/21/08 in Tennessee is looming. These disasters threaten the health and ecology of all people in the immediate area and downstream communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority is delinquent in its duties to protect its people and the environment.

How many other holding ponds are out there waiting to burst?
What price are we wiling to continue to pay for dirty coal?

No one knows the extent of the problems the release of these poisons will have because it will take years for the cancers or neurological problems caused by exposure to these toxins to be counted.

A new EPA report measuring the health risks posed by disposal practices at coal ash dumps confirms what residents who live nearby know only too well – pollution from these sites significantly increases both cancer and noncancer health risks and degrades water quality in groundwater supplies.

By examining 181 coal combustion waste, or coal ash disposal sites throughout the country, the EPA report estimates risks to health and the environment from coal ash disposal. The report found that unlined coal ash waste ponds pose a cancer risk 900 times above what is defined as acceptable.

The EPA report also finds that coal ash disposal sites release toxic chemicals and metals such as arsenic, lead, boron, selenium, cadmium, thallium, and other pollutants at levels that pose risks to human health and the environment.The EPA has the data. They know how grave the health risk is and yet still millions of people remain exposed to this dangerous waste.

Coal ash is our country’s second largest source of industrial waste, and it’s time the EPA made these polluters do their part to clean up. At least 23 states have poisoned surface or groundwater supplies from improper disposal of coal ash.

The EPA claims the cleanup will take at least several weeks, but could take years. Officials also said that the magnitude of this spill is such that the entire area could be declared a federal superfund site.


2.6 Million Cubic Yards of Toxic Coal Ash Slurry Released in Tennessee Dike Burst
– Matthew McDermott Tree-huggers on December 24, 2008

Ash Christmas
TVA coal disaster is toxic wake-up call
– Jeff Biggers December 23, 2008

Important historical facts

Image courtesy of KnoxNews


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