Thursday, January 1, 2009

Environmental Catastrophe in Kingston, TN

Monday night (Dec. 29/08) 2.6 million cubic yards (the equivalent of 525.2 million gallons, 48 times more than the Exxon Valdez spill by volume) of 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.

This spill is of such catastrophic proportions that it could take years to clean up. We have no idea what the impacts on the local environment will be or how many toxic substances are in that sludge. One of the major questions on my minds is: Where will we put it that is safe? It has to go somewhere.

According to a second Discovery News piece on the subject:
“America's thirst for energy generates leaves between 122 and 129 million tons of waste from spent coal each year. Most of that is fly ash, a fine, talcum-like powder. Bottom ash, boiler slag, and sulphur-rich solids left over from scrubbers in the plants' smoke stacks all have to be disposed of, too.”

I find it highly suspicious that the EPA "does not consider coal ash a hazardous waste, despite the fact that it contains mercury, selenium, and arsenic, among other heavy metals."

Thirty-nine environmental groups have drafted a letter asking the Obama administration to "reject a pending federal rule that will make it easier to dispose of coal combustion waste from power plants in abandoned mines" and tighten rules regarding coal ash disposal.

Steve Ahlstedt, an independent aquatic biologist, told CNN that a spill of this magnitude probably will affect the area's ecological balance.

"Once the ash has settled to the bottom of the rivers, all heavy metals will hang around for a long time," he said. "When coal releases into the water, the mussel population goes into deep freeze. They are the 'canary in the coal mine.' They are the main indicator of how healthy our water is."

1 comment:

kathi said...

P - this is just upriver from me and you have some of the best info out there. k