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Coal Plant Spills 500 Million Gallons of Sludge in Tennessee, We Need Renewable Energy Now!

Coal Plant Spills 500 Million Gallons of Sludge in Tennessee, We Need Renewable Energy Now!

Only a couple days before Christmas, a coal plant in Kingston, Tennessee, spilled sludge across an area larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdese spill. The Tennessee Valley Authority says that 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal sludge spilled out of a coal plant retention pond last week, affecting many homes and local roads. The sludge has leaked into the Emory River, a tributary of the Tennessee River, which provides drinking water to millions of people in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

There were over 500 million gallons of arsenic-filled sludge spilled, covering over 400 acres of land. Why is this not a bigger news story? It seems like major media is only glossing over this ecological catastrophy. This isn’t even the first time we’ve seen a sludge spill like this from a coal plant. Eight years ago, there was a similar spill in eastern Kentucky. The coal sludge impoundment owned by Massey Energy broke into an abandoned underground mine, oozing more than 300 million gallons of coal waste into nearby tributaries.

Wondering where all this sludge comes from? Here’s how this all works: These power plants burn loads and loads of coal. In addition to all of the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, they produce a huge amount of ash. How do they dispose of all the ash? Coal companies dig a big ditch and fill it with the soot. When it rains, the ash turns into sludge. When it rains a whole lot, the sludge pits can overflow. So they build dams and walls to hold in the sludge. When the sludge is a large enough volume, the dams break and cover acres and acres of wild land with black muck. Sometimes the sludge covers homes, schools, etc.

Coal power is a dirty business; the environmental movement has been saying this for years now. Wind turbines and solar panels don’t cover towns in sludge and they don’t pump out carbon dioxide. Sure, if a wind turnbine falls over, it’s a bad situation, but at least it doesn’t cover the nearby area in toxic, goopy slop. We need to get rid of fossil fuel power plants all together. Hopefully this spill will act as a wake-up call for politicians, we need clean, renewable energy now.  

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10 comments

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1:17PM PST on Nov 17, 2011

I agree with Joss H. recycle coal ash into roads, cement consumer products as much as possible.

8:04AM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

Ooops just doesn't cut it.

2:14PM PST on Jan 12, 2009

They may be acting slowley waiting for the Supreme court to rule on the Alaska gold mine asking to violate the clean water act, The ruling they make will affect all mining and how they handle their waste this story is worth reading, but it will shock you here is a statement from their lawyer. “The metal waste, known as tailings, would kill all aquatic life in the lake. But mining company lawyer Theodore Olson said the waste was more accurately defined as "fill." And, once mining ends, the lake could be restocked, resulting in a bigger lake with more fish“
http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/651059.html?mi_pluck_action=comment_submitted#Comments_Container

2:02PM PST on Jan 12, 2009

Another heart breaking story that will affect the mining companies and who they deal with their waste. “The metal waste, known as tailings, would kill all aquatic life in the lake. But mining company lawyer Theodore Olson said the waste was more accurately defined as "fill." And, once mining ends, the lake could be restocked, resulting in a bigger lake with more fish“
That is a excerpt from an article in anchorage daily news today. The supreme court is hearing about an Alaska gold mine, wanting to dump their waste in a lake, and violate the clean water act. Its to be expected I guess that a company is going to do what ever for profits, but the blatant arrogance of the statement says every thing. The story is here and it will affect how all mining companies dump waste. http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/651059.html?mi_pluck_action=comment_submitted#Comments_Container
sign the repower petition above and this one
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/green-power-plants

9:06AM PST on Jan 7, 2009

"Coal power is a dirty business; the environmental movement has been saying this for years now. Wind turbines and solar panels don't cover towns in sludge and they don't pump out carbon dioxide. Sure, if a wind turnbine falls over, it's a bad situation, but at least it doesn't cover the nearby area in toxic, goopy slop. We need to get rid of fossil fuel power plants all together. Hopefully this spill will act as a wake-up call for politicians, we need clean, renewable energy now." Please just how home many homes can Wind and Solar panels heat during the winter or supply power during the summer. The most I seem forcast was at the best conditions maybe 10 percent of the "CURRENT NATIONAL NEEDS". We would be like California with rolling brown outs. We need fossils fuels, and nuclear power.

7:24AM PST on Jan 5, 2009

"Apalachian Voices" has a Front Porch blog reporting, as well. This is the URL to an article on the frightening results of the first independent testing, too long to post here :

http://www.appvoices.org/index.php?/frontporch/blogposts/preliminary_tests_find_high_levels_of_toxic_chemicals_in_harriman_tn_fly_as/

Excerpt:

Concentrations of eight toxic chemicals range from twice to 300 times higher than drinking water limits, according to scientists with Appalachian State University who conducted the tests.

“Although these results are preliminary, we want to release them because of the public health concern and because we believe the TVA and EPA aren’t being candid,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chair of the Waterkeeper Alliance. ...

According to the tests, arsenic levels from the Kingston power plant intake canal tested at close to 300 times the allowable amounts in drinking water, while a sample from two miles
downstream still revealed arsenic at approximately 30 times the allowed limits. Lead was present at between twice to 21 times the legal drinking water limits, and thallium levels tested at 3 to 4 times the allowable amounts.

“I have never seen levels of arsenic, lead and copper this high in natural waters,” said Babyak.

7:07AM PST on Jan 5, 2009

Hi, Alice. I have done a search on C2 and find there are quite a few posts on this devastating, enormous coal ash sludge 'spill.'

There are also several non-profits that are working overtime, trying to help the people whose community has been contaminated, providing them with drinkable water, get tests carried out, inform of the risks, etc, particularly the United Mountain Defense, a Tennessee environmental group that seems to be the most involved in grassroots action in the aftermath of this disaster. http://unitedmountaindefense.org/

iLoveMountains.org, a coalition fighting mountaintop removal coal mining, has launched a comprehensive section of information including links to all the news coverage, blog posts, photos, and videos of the event as well as detailed information about coal fly ash, historical accounts of other similar incidents, and personal accounts of the current event. -- http://www.ilovemountains.org/tvaspill/

On it I saw that the NYTimes reported on the results of tests as recently as Jan 2, although local newspapers are covering the disaster much more than national ones.


11:48AM PST on Jan 1, 2009

Joss H - they DO do this in the USA. This is nothing new. The ash is dumped in an ash pond because it is mixed with water. Water is used to capture the ash after burning to keep it from going up the smoke stack. It is then dredged from the ponds periodically and sent to cement factories or used to make paving materials.
James - burning trash can release more toxins than burning coal.

10:25AM PST on Jan 1, 2009

Landfells are full of trash, why not burn this trash in place of coal?

5:22PM PST on Dec 30, 2008

In Argentina there is coal-fired plant that, of course, produces ash. But it's not dumped in a ditch - it's all shipped to a cement-producing plant and is converted into cement and building blocks. End of problem. Why don't they do this in the USA?

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