Category Archives: ash spill


This video just about broke my heart:

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Tennessee, TVA

All Of Those Leaky TVA Ponds

Folks, when I said the TVA coal sludge spill wasn’t the first and won’t be the last, I wasn’t kidding. And when I said the Kingston disaster should be coal’s Three Mile Island, I meant it.

Witness this news item from this morning (h/t, reader fuzed-T):

TVA waste pond ruptures in Ala.; spill contained

STEVENSON, Ala. (AP) — A waste pond at a coal-burning power plant in northeast Alabama ruptured early Friday, but the spill was quickly contained, utility officials said.

The spill, about 30 miles southwest of Chattanooga, Tenn., was the second rupture at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in recent weeks. In late December, a dike burst at a plant near Kingston, Tenn., releasing more than 1 billion gallons of toxic-laden ash into a neighborhood.

The leak was discovered at about 6 a.m. Friday at the plant near Stevenson, said TVA spokesman John Moulton. Most of the material from the leak flowed into a settling pond at the plant site, but some spilled into nearby Widows Creek, he said.

The leak has stopped and the TVA is conducting temporary repairs on the pond, Moulton said.

The federal utility said the pond contained gypsum, a material that is captured in air pollution control devices at the coal-burning plant, and is different than the type of sludge that spilled in Tennessee. Gypsum is a naturally occurring mineral that contains calcium sulfate, which is used to make wall board, cement and fertilizer.

Gypsum is what my friend at TWRA said is used to mix with coal ash, which is then manufactured into drywall and cinder block.

Anyway, rumor has it that TVA’s Johnsonville Fossil Plant outside of Waverly, TN is operating with a sludge pond (pictured at right) which is 20 years past its life expectancy. That should set off alarm bells, considering TVA brags on the Johnsonville website that this fossil plant “consumes some 9,600 tons of coal a day.

I don’t mean to alarm anyone–or hell, maybe I do–but leaks have been reported at the Johnsonville sludge pond since 2003. Also:

Newschannel 5 also learned the state reported erosion in 2006 at a dike at TVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant in Stewart County.

Gosh I feel so much better now. Not.

Meanwhile, back in May TDEC approved reissuing Johnsonville’s permit to dump

ash pond discharges, water treatment plant wastes, discharges from sump stations, discharges from metal and non-chemcial metal cleaning, discharges from coal yard drainage, and storm water runoff through Outfall 001; steam condenser cooling water, miscellaneous equipment cooling/lubricating water through Outfall 003; metal cleaning wastewater via IMP 005; intake screen backwash through Outfall 010; settled ash slurry from the main ash pond, runoff from ash stacking, and direct rainfall onto the sedimentation pond through Outfall 011; air conditioner noncontact cooling water through Outfall 013; Electrical Control Building noncontact cooling water through Outfall 017

into the Tennessee River.

I’m sure we have nothing to worry about and everything is just peachy. Really.

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Filed under alabama, ash spill, clean coal, environment, Tennessee, TVA

>Lamar Alexander Destroys The Landscape

>Paging Sen. Lamar Alexander! Yes, I’m talking to you, buddy. You’re shameless, you know that?

Your pitiful performance at yesterday’s TVA ash spill hearings are made all the worse when one remembers your previous jihad against wind power because you thought turbines “destroy the landscape.” Of course, it’s hard not to remember that and immediately think of your opposition to the CapeWind project on Nantucket Sound that would have interfered with the view from your $800,000 Cape Cod land.

You wanna talk about destroying the landscape? Check this out:

The first one is how they get the coal, by removing the tops of mountains.

And here’s a coal sludge pond on a good day, you know, a day where it hasn’t busted its dike and flooded a community. Do you like that landscape Sen. Alexander? Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

As guess as far as those hearings yesterday goes, Alexander forgot what the word “oversight” means, because that’s what they were supposed to be about. Instead we got questions from the Senator on the cost per kilowatt hour to generate electricity, comparing coal to other means such as hydro, solar and, ooopsie daisy, wind. Guess who came out on the top end of that cost analysis? Of course, that doesn’t include the $100 million+ clean-up costs associated with an accident at just one coal fired plant. And even TVA CEO Tom Kilgore admitted that those costs are for older coal-fired plants, not new ones.

Look, I’m not a big proponent of wind power per se. I’m more of a solar girl, truth be told. But I’ve seen wind farms out West and I don’t find them especially ugly; they can be quite beautiful in a hi-tech sort of way. Not everyone has the same taste, I get that. But if you’re going to oppose a form of alternative energy, doing it on aesthetic grounds is pretty moronic when the one you’re touting is probably the ugliest blight on a landscape one could imagine, from start to finish. And let’s face it, Alexander’s economic argument just doesn’t hold water.

I’ve long believed that Lamar Alexander is one of those people who is riding a “moderate” image that is completely undeserved. He talks the talk but when push comes to shove he doesn’t walk the walk.

Here’s a brief look at his record on energy:

• Voted NO on tax incentives for energy production and conservation. (Jun 2008)
• Voted YES on removing oil & gas exploration subsidies. (Jun 2007)
• Voted YES on making oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal. (Jun 2007)
• Voted NO on factoring global warming into federal project planning. (May 2007)
• Voted NO on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska’s ANWR. (Nov 2005)
• Voted NO on $3.1B for emergency oil assistance for hurricane-hit areas. (Oct 2005)
• Voted NO on reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%). (Jun 2005)
• Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Mar 2005)
• Voted YES on Bush Administration Energy Policy. (Jul 2003)
• Voted NO on targeting 100,000 hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2010. (Jun 2003)
• Voted NO on removing consideration of drilling ANWR from budget bill. (Mar 2003)
• Keep efficient air conditioner rule to conserve energy. (Mar 2004)
• Rated 0% by the CAF, indicating opposition to energy independence. (Dec 2006)
• Open the Outer Continental Shelf for oil & gas leasing. (Jun 2008)
• Establish energy security strategy with domestic production. (Jul 2008)

And now we’re stuck with him for another six years.

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Filed under alternative energy, ash spill, clean coal, environment, Sen. Lamar Alexander, TVA

LiveBlogging TVA Hearings

Stephen Smith, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, is now giving his opening remarks.

Smith makes a great point that TVA and the community really dodged a bullet. If the sludge pond dam had broken during the summer when the area was filled with outdoor recreationists, hundreds of lives could have been lost.

“It’s outrageous that landfills that hold our household garbage are more tightly regulated” than toxic sludge ponds. Smith calls for the orderly phase-out of wet sludge ponds.

Smith basically tells Sen. Inhofe to stuff it. I missed that part of the hearing but I assume Inhofe alleged all sorts of conflicts of interest by Smith since his group is considering a lawsuit. I wonder if Inhofe cared to mention the $157,300 in coal lobby monies he received in the last Congress alone?

I’m guessing … not.


William “Howie” Rose, Director of Emergency Management Services for Roane County, is now speaking. Rose is pointing out several flaws in TVA’s emergency response plan that appear to be unique to the Kingston coal plant. He says that TVA does not utilize the same national incident management system that other emergency management agencies do, the Kingston plant does not use the same emergency perparedness program as is used at TVA’s nuclear and hydro plants, and TVA also did not conduct and make available to the local community a risk assessment analysis at the plant which would have helped with emergency response.

Smith is pointing out that we still don’t really know what’s in the “muck,” it’s 60 years worth of coal ash waste that flooded the surrounding community.

Sen. Boxer: We cannot forget: all of the stuff that is in this muck is so dangerous that we passed laws to get it out of our air. And now it’s in our water.


Sen. Alexander: “This is a real environmental tragedy, period. But I don’t want to obscure some of the things that TVA has been doing lately that I applaud. …”

Way to throw the softballs, Sen. Alexander! No one could have predicted that. Oh, wait. Never mind.


Interesting information from Sen. Jeff Merkley, (D-ORE): The dike’s containment walls were made of ash, not clay, and trees were removed that weakened the dam.

Now Sen. Carper of Delaware is asking the witnesses to introduce any family members they may have attending the hearings. Someone give me a brick so I can bash my head in with it. What an idiotic time-waster.

Now he’s quoting a Roberta Flack song. Carper is the chairman of the subcommittee that has oversight over TVA. Count me completely unimpressed. What a lightweight.


Hearing is adjourned. What have we learned children? Sens. Alexander and Carper {heart} TVA. Alexander is also trying to salvage the “clean coal” slogan as it rapidly gets washed down the toilet. Barbara Boxer is concerned about children and coves. Inhofe is still an ass. The only one who impressed me was Jeff Merkley of Oregon and he’s the new kid on the block.

Folks, we’re screwed.

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Filed under ash spill, environment, TVA

Live Streaming Senate TVA Hearings Now

C-SPAN isn’t covering it but you can catch live-streaming of the hearings at

UPDATE: Also available on the Senate Environment & Public Works website here.

UPDATE: Okay not there. Now I’m getting a prompt that the page is down for maintenance. If I had a tinfoil hat I’d be wearing it now. Boy it sure is hard for people in Tennessee to watch these hearings. I wonder why that is?


My connection sucks but sounds like Lamar Alexander just said we need a series of “mini Manhattan projects” to figure out how we can safely use coal. Throws out recapturing carbon — Um, Senator, that’s what a billion gallons of just flowed into the Emory River. The question is what do we do with it when we recapture it? It’s filled with arsenic, mercury, and other poisons, and it’s believed to be even more radioactive than nuclear waste.

Last night I talked with a TWRA biologist who told me they are actually selling this stuff for use with gypsum to make drywall. Drywall! Made out of radioactive toxic chemicals!! Doan want!!!!!!


Well it appears if you want to watch these hearings you need to take a fucking plane to Washington DC because it appears the live stream has been yanked. Thank you, everyone, for continuing to keep us ignorant and uninformed. Hey we’re just a bunch of hillbillies, who cares, right?

I think I’ll go kick something now.

OK maybe it was just me …. sigh …. I really miss public access television.


Lamar Alexander is questioning Tom Kilgore on the cost to produce electricity, “in the spirit of turning this from an environgmental disaster into a longterm technological opportunity.” He asks what it cost per kilowatt-hour to generate electricity, including the costs of building the plants.

Kilgore’s answer:

coal — 4.5 to 5-cents per kwh, for older plants.
nuclear — 4.2 cents
natural gas — 10 cents
hydro — a few dollars
solar — they don’t have a figure as they buy it from other folks
wind — 70 cents

Now Senator Alexander is asking Kilgore if “clean coal” is possible. Of course his answer is yes. I think Sen. Alexander has an agenda here but that’s just me.


Sen. Barbara Boxer: You have big problems. You’ve got to clean up your act there. Literally!

What about the coves? The homeowners say you have no plans to restore the water in the coves, you just plan to cover it up. Is that what you consider a clean-up for those homeowners?

Kilgore: No, that’s not a cleanup, to be blunt. There are two coves, one had deeper water than the other. I was asked if we would make that back into an embayment. I said until we could study that I couldn’t answer that directly. I didn’t want to make a promise until I know what the best options are for the environment and the neighbors.

Boxer: But my point is, at this time you have no plans to restore those coves?

Kilgore: But we don’t not have a plan, madam chairman.

Boxer: That’s not an answer! I don’t think you’d send your grandkids out to play in an area like that.


Sen. Carper (D-DEL) is now throwing softballs at Kilgore. i.e., “Let’s look at best practices in the industry for dealing with fly ash. What are things you are doing that’s cutting edge and what are others doing?”

Apropos of nothing, says Big Coal contributed $35,000 to Carper, most of it in 2005-2006.

I don’t understand why Senators are asking about scrubbing emmissions from smoke stacks. There is still waste. This is the crap that ended up in a sludge pond that broke and polluted a huge area. Do they not get it?

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Filed under ash spill, environment, TVA

TVA Gives Customers The Middle Finger

Here’s a headline that was entirely predictable, and utterly despicable:

Costs of TVA sludge spill to show on electric bills


TVA’s ratepayers will be saddled with the cost to clean up a massive coal ash slide at an East Tennessee power plant, the agency’s chairman said.

The tab, likely to be tens of millions of dollars or more, will include the cost of extra workers, overtime pay, heavy machinery, and housing and supplies for families chased from their homes, along with the lawsuits that have begun to pile up.

“This is going to get into rates sooner or later,” Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman Bill Sansom told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We haven’t even thought about going to Washington for it.”

First of all, “tens of millions” is wildly conservative. Steve Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy puts it more like $100 million, not including costs for things like lawsuits. Last night I spent the evening with a TWRA biologist who has been working on monitoring the site, and he estimated the cost to be more like $150 million.

But second of all: WTF?

Just a week ago we learned of the multi-million dollar bonuses TVA executives received:

According to federal documents, the CEO of TVA, Tom Kilgore, makes $655,000 a year. In addition to his salary, he received an incentive bonus of more than $1 million for 2008, bringing his total income to $2.4 million.

TVA’s chief financial officer, Kimberly Green, earned a salary of $503,000 in 2008 and received a bonus of $493,000, which made for an income of $1.3 million.

William McCollum, the chief operating officer, earned $726,000, with a $751,000 bonus, for a total of $1.8 million.

Incentive bonus? Incentive for what–destroying people’s lives? Destroying wildlife and water and soil?

Why are we rewarding these people with bonuses when they just destroyed a rather large area of East Tennessee? No way, no how. I want those bonuses back. You don’t get rewarded for causing the largest environmental disaster since the ExxonValdez spill.

TVA managers decided to cut corners on overdue repairs to their leaky coal ash sludge pond, going the el-cheapo spit-and-a-prayer route. The most expensive route would have been a $25 million “global fix” but that was deemed too expensive. And now we’re looking at “tens of millions of dollars”–try more like $100 million-plus–that utility customers have to pay to make up for their mistake. While TVA executives take in big bonuses for not doing their jobs.

Thanks a lot, TVA. Love you back, lots. Please, someone tell me how can I get off the grid, pronto.

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Filed under ash spill, environment, Tennessee, TVA

>Senate To Hold TVA Hearings Tomorrow

>The U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works will hold hearings on the TVA spill Thursday, January 8, at 10:00 AM EST.

I can’t tell if C-SPAN will broadcast these hearings, since they only post today’s schedule on their website. If you’d like to see these hearings you need to fax their viewer services department at 202-737-6226 (an e-mail doesn’t appear to do the trick).

I urge everyone to take a few minutes and send C-SPAN a fax right away. I just did it and it took me 1 minute. A hand-written note will do.

Aren’t you just dying to see TVA CEO Tom Kilgore fold like a lawnchair under the brutal questioning of Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander?

Aw, who am I kidding!

But yeah, we need to see these hearings. So fax that letter, pronto. ‘kay, thx, bai.

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Filed under ash spill, environment, Senate, TVA

>Poison Ponds Everywhere & No One Minding The Store

>Thanks, “clean coal”! Apparently the clean coal propagandists and their de-regulating, anti-environmental minions in Washington have left hundreds of potential coal sludge disasters all across the country. Count me not shocked.

Reports the New York Times on today’s front page:

The coal ash pond that ruptured and sent a billion gallons of toxic sludge across 300 acres of East Tennessee last month was only one of more than 1,300 similar dumps across the United States — most of them unregulated and unmonitored — that contain billions more gallons of fly ash and other byproducts of burning coal.

Like the one in Tennessee, most of these dumps, which reach up to 1,500 acres, contain heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be a threat to water supplies and human health. Yet they are not subject to any federal regulation, which experts say could have prevented the spill, and there is little monitoring of their effects on the surrounding environment.

In fact, coal ash is used throughout the country for construction fill, mine reclamation and other “beneficial uses.” In 2007, according to a coal industry estimate, 50 tons of fly ash even went to agricultural uses, like improving soil’s ability to hold water, despite a 1999 E.P.A. warning about high levels of arsenic. The industry has promoted the reuse of coal combustion products because of the growing amount of them being produced each year — 131 million tons in 2007, up from less than 90 million tons in 1990.

I don’t understand why the EPA keeps issuing all of these warnings about the dangerous toxicity of coal ash, and these warnings are ignored or downplayed in the face of industry and political pressure.

Look, people, this isn’t hard. Facts are facts, science is science. If the science shows dumping billions of gallons of toxic waste is bad for the soil, air and water that people use, then quit doing it. And by all means, don’t peddle this toxic sludge as some kind of new miracle fertilizer. That’s the kind of shit they pull in China.

Now we get to the meat of the matter:

The amount of coal ash has ballooned in part because of increased demand for electricity, but more because air pollution controls have improved. Contaminants and waste products that once spewed through the coal plants’ smokestacks are increasingly captured in the form of solid waste, held in huge piles in 46 states, near cities like Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Tampa, Fla., and on the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River.

I’ve said this from day one: “clean coal” is a farce. You can put scrubbers on smokestacks, but that just means the waste comes in a different form. You cannot repeal the laws of thermodynamics. You do not “create” energy, you can only change its form, and when you do that there is always, always, always a waste product. Whether you change that waste product from belching smoke and acid rain to toxic sludge, it’s still a hazard and still needs to be handled carefully.

This is environmental science 101.

Something else that bears remembering is that coal ash is radioactive. I’d love to know why we are spreading this stuff around on agricultural fields and construction sites.

Someone at the EPA needs to be doing their job and digging into this stuff. Clearly the EPA bows too easily to political and industry pressure in general. The Bush years have been the worst as far as gutting the EPA is concerned, but this stuff has gone on in other administrations, too.

We need a huge sea change in this country, one which puts the health and well-being of people over the profits of industry, one which acts like responisble adults not greedy children who think they can eat ice cream and cupcakes and not feel sick afterwards.

It’s time to grow up, America.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, energy production, environment, EPA

>The TVA Board That Operates Like A Business

>Not to put too partisan of a spin on things here, but when the inspector general issues a report questioning TVA’s regulatory compliance and management practices, and one remembers that the TVA Board of Directors “sets policy and strategy for TVA,” one should also remember the recent changes to the TVA Board, which make it for all intents and purposes a Republican operation.

The TVA board used to consist of three members, nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In November 2004 the board was expanded to nine members, a scheme concocted by Tennessee Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander to “modernize the management structure” and “lead to more accountability at TVA,” and which was implemented without any congressional hearings of any type.

In 2008 Frist called the new board a resounding success:

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican who wrote the changes in TVA’s governance, said the new system has been “very positive” and helped the utility run like most businesses with a policy-making board overseeing management under a chief executive officer.
“To have an identity operating under a 1933 structure in 2008 simply would have been unsatisfactory,” Dr. Frist said. “Over time, I think the board should be more nonpartisan and we can get away from using that position as political patronage but having people who are extremely well qualified. The intent was to get politics out of the system, and I think that has been achieved.”

“Over time” being GOP-speak for “the time when Democrats are in the White House.” Right now, the board is comprised almost entirely of Republicans–the only non-Republican being Bishop William H. Graves of Memphis, a senior bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church and a registered Democrat who happened to co-chair Shelby County’s Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign. Good Democrat there, rightey-o.

This blatant partisan power grab prompted current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold up a couple of board confirmatons in the interest of getting more political diversity on the panel. This in turn resulted in much whining and stomping of feet from Tennessee Republican Senators Corker and Alexander. Reid, who’s got the spine of an overcooked linguine, of course caved, resulting in much happy dancing in the offices of Corker and Alexander.

And yes, that would be the same Alexander who sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will conduct hearings into the TVA coal ash spill next week.

Oh my, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Could we have a conflict of some type, Senator Alexander? You are conducting hearings into an accident at a TVA plant when you basically are one of the architects of the current TVA board, and battled the Senate Majority Leader over the confirmation of some board members? I wonder if his questions will be of the “may I pray for you” variety.

As for the rest of the board , in the grand Republican tradition of “operating government like a business” it is made up of Republican donors and patrons:

Most of those appointed to the TVA board over the past two years by President Bush have been Republican activists and financial supporters of GOP causes. Robert “Mike” Duncan from Kentucky is chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Susan Richardson Williams, who is awaiting confirmation for another term, was previously chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party. TVA Chairman Bill Sansom, a Knoxville businessman, served in the Cabinet of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., when Sen. Alexander was Tennessee’s governor.
Collectively, the eight people appointed or nominated to the TVA board by the Bush White House, and their spouses, gave $592,405 to Republican candidates and organizations since 1994, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press compilation of campaign records. Four of the board appointees also contributed lesser amounts to Democratic candidates.

The GOP tilt to the new board is one of the unintended consequences of adopting the TVA board change without congressional hearings in 2004, Mr. Crowell said.
“All the board members will now be of the same political party, which I don’t think reflects the diversity of opinion in the Tennessee Valley,” he said. “There also appears to be a lot of importance put in these appointments to where people live, which encourages them to represent those areas and not the broader interests of TVA.”

Getting back to where our story started, it’s interesting to me that Frist and Alexander expanded the TVA board to make it “operate more like a business,” supported President Bush when he filled it with cronies and party patrons, and now we have an inspector general’s report showing this:

According to an IG report dated March 4, 2008, on leaks in the flue gas ductwork at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Alabama, TVA put “business operations” ahead of “ethics and compliance issues” at the steam plant.

According to the report, while the duct work problems were addressed and management made efforts to repair the leaks, “the emphasis was on efforts to contain the leaks while keeping the plant operating until the next major outage.”

The report says little consideration was given by TVA officials of reporting the “continuous nature and extent of the leaks” to Alabama environmental authorities.

“Rather, the leaks were addressed as a safety or maintenance issue and not a permit issue. We also found no evidence that ethics and compliance issues were considered, presumably because of the emphasis on business operations,” the report concludes.


Meanwhile, a February 2008 TVA inspection report of the Kingston steam plant showed a TVA fly ash retention pond has had leaks, seepage and water-logged walls for years before the Dec. 22 failure. The report shows TVA knew about leaks at the site for more than two decades.

Well, that sounds about right. I was shocked when CNN reported that TVA’s priority after the Kingston coal ash accident was “clearing the railroad tracks .. because that’s how they get the coal into the plant.”

Remarked Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

“TVA has the heavy-duty emphasis on cost-cutting, on keeping the plants running without any downtime,” he said. “(TVA’s emphasis) is on nothing to slow the production of electricity. I don’t have the exact set of what all the metrics are that all these executives get bonus pay for, but I’m reasonably confident it’s associated with cost-cutting and uptime, not downtime (of plants). Bringing plants down may be frowned on because it may be in conflict with how an employee gets compensation.

And this:

How the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to stabilize Kingston’s ash landfill would have implications for its many other elevated waste dumps, an important tool in the agency’s strategy to maximize its storage on-site and avoid more costly options.

A Tennessean review of state records and some TVA documents shows that top officials rejected solutions that were deemed “global fixes” because they were simply too costly. The most expensive option was listed at $25 million.

In the end, TVA chose to install a series of trenches and other drainage mechanisms to try to relieve the water pressure and give the walls more stability.

On Dec. 22, the walls gave way.

You’d think the oh-so-business-like TVA Board, were it not filled with cronies and big GOP donors, might put the utility’s emphasis on safety, ethics, and accountability, not profits. Because this clean-up is going to cost a lot more than $25 million.

But that’s not “business-like,” I guess.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Sen. Bill Frist, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Lamar Alexander, TVA

>Poisoned Rivers Thanks To ‘Clean’ Coal

>Hey, Gov. Bredesen! You might want to drop that handful of coal ash sludge.

The EPA has released its sludge test results and it ain’t pretty:

At one point in the Emory River, just downriver from the disaster site, arsenic levels in the water registered 149 times higher than the federal limit for safe drinking water. The same spot registered lead levels five times higher than normal, as well as unsafe levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium and chromium, and elevated levels of a dozen other chemicals.

Although the TVA’s Web site boasts a prominent photo of Gov. Phil Bredesen handling a glob of sludge barehanded, experts are urging Tennesseans not to follow suit.

“We’re asking people to limit contact with the (coal) ash material, to wash their hands and clothing after coming in contact with it. Don’t let your children and animals play in the ash,” EPA spokeswoman Laura Niles said.

As the lightweight ash dries, it could become airborne and irritate the lungs and skin. The TVA is working on dust control as it searches for a more permanent solution.


So far, Kingston’s drinking water has tested safe. The intake for the city water system is upstream from the spill and has registered high levels of only one poison, thallium.

Thallium, of course, is a poison favored by mystery writers and KGB agents. And nothing has yet been released about possible radioactivity of any of this stuff.

I do have a question about all of this, which hasn’t really been addressed: If the Emory flows into the Clinch, and the Clinch flows into the Tennessee, and the Tennessee flows across the state, right through Bob Corker Country and then north into the Ohio, what are the chances that this poisonous stuff will spread its toxic load all across the state? And how many communities pull their water from this river system downstream? What are the risks associated with that?

Meanwhile, this seems to be yet another example of warnings ignored, and the feds shirking their responsibility to protect citizens. I guess they thought the free hand of the market would take care of everything for them.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, Gov. Bredesen, Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee, TVA