Category Archives: ash spill

>Blind Faith

>Via Christian G at NiT comes this quote from Roane County Emergency Management Director William Rose:

So, that is a resounding question from the people in the county is “all this information that’s been put out I don’t know what to believe.” Well, I’m telling you what to believe. You believe what these people down here are telling you to believe because I’m seeing the data just like everybody else is. I don’t understand it all, but they explain it to me, and I got faith in these people down here and what they do.

Wow, if I didn’t know better I’d say Roane County’s Emergency Management Director just told the people he’s supposed to protect to shut up, quit whining, and do what they’re told.

Let’s see, the last time someone in the government told me to believe them, we ended up sending over 4,000 American soldiers to their deaths in Iraq. There was also the time the EPA told folks in Manhattan that the air around Ground Zero was safe. And then there was FEMA handing out toxic trailers to those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.

So I can’t blame the good people of Roane County for being a little skeptical about what they’re hearing from the government right now, can you?
 Especially when what they see with their own lying eyes contradicts what they’ve been told by “these people down here”:

My Grandson became sick yesterday… Cough…. stuffy nose…. sneezing….. flushed….. didn’t want to eat….. not wanting to nap either….

It was windy yesterday just like the day before… and the ash had to be flying.

I took him to the ER as recommended by his physician.  I took the information that TVA had given me, as well as a MSDS sheet about fly ash. 

He had to endure a nasal wash & suction, x-rays, monitoring of his oxygen levels.  The conclusion?  Irritation from the fly ash, specifically airborne. 

TVA is aware, and we are currently at a local hotel.  The Doctor recommended that he not go home… we not go home….avoid the area altogether. 

Here’s something else you can believe:

Among the surprising conclusions: the waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant—a by-product from burning coal for electricity—carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy.

At issue is coal’s content of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. They occur in such trace amounts in natural, or “whole,” coal that they aren’t a problem. But when coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at up to 10 times their original levels.

Fly ash uranium sometimes leaches into the soil and water surrounding a coal plant, affecting cropland and, in turn, food. People living within a “stack shadow”—the area within a half- to one-mile (0.8- to 1.6-kilometer) radius of a coal plant’s smokestacks—might then ingest small amounts of radiation. Fly ash is also disposed of in landfills and abandoned mines and quarries, posing a potential risk to people living around those areas.

Hey, Mr. Rose. Some of “these good people” are getting sick. Believe that one, if you can.

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Filed under ash spill, TVA

>Bredesen: "A National Wake-Up Call"

>Gov. Bredesen is touring the TVA ash spill site as I write. Some pertinent Tweets:

• TN Gov. Bredesen I guess this an epiphany for tva and the country…is that some things have got to change

• BREAKING: Gov. Bredesen says days of TVA’s self regulation are over. Calls TVA disaster a national wake up call

• BREAKING: Gov. Bredesen calls for review of state environmental regulations top to bottom following TVA coal ash spill.

This is all exactly what I’ve been waiting to hear. None of this nonsense from Lamar “no wind power” Alexander whose statement (“TVA should clean up this mess and clean it up quickly, and do everything possible to make sure it never happens again.”) was just this side of lame.

TVA is going to fix it, Senator Alexander. But it’s up to us to make sure this never happens again.

And Gov. Bredesen is right, this is a national wake-up call. Half of our electricity is generated by burning coal. Do you know where the coal waste in your community is stored? Do you know how it’s treated? Do you know if it’s radioactive?

You should.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Gov. Bredesen, Tennessee, TVA

>Pandora’s Ashtray


Last night WSMV reported the state is testing soil for radioactivity.

Several reports have also cited a 2007 Scientific American article stating coal fly ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.

That’s what Kingston, TN has become. While TVA has yet to tell residents what is in the ash quickly blanketing the landscape, the Institute of Southern Studies has done what government officials and the media would not: a little poking around on the internet:

It turns out that the potential health risks from the spilled ash are clearly considerable. The top reported pollutant in the ash by volume is barium, which when ingested in drinking water can cause acute gastrointestinal disturbances and muscle weakness as well as kidney damage over time. Vanadium, another main ingredient in the ash, has been linked to respiratory problems, birth defects, and kidney and liver damage.

The coal ash also contains high levels of known human carcinogens including arsenic, chromium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic compounds, as well as suspected carcinogens such as lead and cobalt. Mercury and lead are also nervous system toxicants that can cause developmental problems, and a number of the chemicals in the ash have been linked to reproductive problems.

Here’s the breakdown:

Why aren’t we hearing this information from TVA officials? Why are they still saying the water is safe to drink? If they are worried about holding the liability bag, I don’t see how keeping quiet helps their cause.

And to all of the “free market” conservatives out there, I have a question: if you’re in favor of tort reform, which limits damages awarded to those injured in an environmental disaster such as this one, and you’re also in favor of fewer regulations over industries like utilities and coal-fired power plants, then what exactly is the incentive for a power-generating utility to dispose of their waste in a safe manner that doesn’t threaten the surrounding community? How exactly is the free hand of the market supposed to work if they’re never responsible for anything?

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

>Don’t Breathe The Air, Either

>A half hour ago this popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA sez toxin levels in H2O are now back down to what TDEC consistently finds in their well water samplings (“acceptable levels”)

Given that the EPA has said folks using well water would be advised not to, I wouldn’t be listening to TVA right now, people. But that’s just me.

And while you’re at it, try not to breathe the air, either. Ash spill live-blogger LifeOnSwanPond reports:

The Ash is drying… and it’s not all wet anymore.  Still no answers to the exact content of the ash….

This is a HUGE concern.  Large amounts of dry ash & even a calm breeze moves these lightweight particles around.  They settle on everything.  We are breathing them.

Yes you are. And I would say, don’t. If you can help it, don’t.

It goes without saying that this stuff is toxic. Even if they tell you it’s safe, it’s not. Remember the lessons of 9/11:

Within days of the World Trade Center collapse, someone ordered Environmental Protection Agency administrators to tell New Yorkers the air was safe. Reopen Wall Street, and bring back its thousands of workers. Reopen Stuyvesant High School, which Orkin’s son attended. Ignore Brooklyn, where residents like her vacuumed inches-deep white ash from their windowsills. No matter that private tests showed the air remained full of lead, asbestos, mercury, benzene. No matter that, according to documents forced out of the EPA by a Freedom of Information request, the agency’s own tests agreed that the air in Lower Manhattan—who wanted to bother with Brooklyn?—wasn’t fit to breathe.

Even without testing, anyone could see the billowing cloud of debris released when the 110-story twin towers came crashing down. Dust from the Trade Center hung in the air for weeks. Putrid fires burned for three months.

“Any half-wit knew it was hell after 9-11,” Orkin says. She has been pressing the EPA to test for and clean up toxic dust in her Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, across the East River from ground zero and smack in the plume’s path. After tests revealed high levels of asbestos in her home, she paid thousands of dollars for a full abatement, which included ripping up the carpets. Her World Trade Center Environmental Organization website,, is devoted to the 9-11 fallout and replete with aerial photos and satellite images of the plume.

I’d say we’re looking at a similar situation. Given that the TVA’s own admitted first priority was clearing the railroad tracks “because that’s how they get the coal into the plant,” I’d say the health and well-being of a few local residents is not exactly high on their radar right now.

But what do I know.

This just popped up on Twitter’s coal ash thread:

TVA says they want to hydro mulch the coal waste from helicopters (planting grass seed) to prevent airborne particulates.

This tells me TVA is concerned about the ash too, even though they won’t say so openly, and won’t tell anyone what’s in it. But make no mistake, the stuff is toxic and should not be breathed. Keep it out of your home, if at all possible. Stay indoors if you must stay in the area.

At least, that’s what I would do, if it were me.

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Filed under ash spill, Clean Air, clean coal, environment, EPA, TVA

>Arsenic In Old Wells

>It’s official: don’t drink the water if you live near the Kingston, TN coal ash spill:

KINGSTON – Some water samples near a massive spill of coal ash are showing high levels of arsenic, and state and federal officials today cautioned residents who use private wells or springs to stop drinking the water.

Also today, TVA’s inspector general said he is investigating the fly-ash spill at the Kingston steam plant, as well as the agency’s response, and Gov. Phil Bredesen weighed in today as well.

Samples taken near the spill slightly exceed drinking water standards for toxic substances, and arsenic in one sample was higher than the maximum level allowed for drinking water, according to a news release from TVA, the Environmental Protection Agency and other officials.

TVA spokesman Jim Allen said there are four private drinking water wells in the area affected by the spill and the agency should have tests from them this week.

This after TVA initially said water was safe to drink. Then “officials” — not sure if that would be local, state or federal — suggested folks boil their water first. As if this were bacterial pollution.

If only it were that easy.

Currently “officials” are saying the municipal water supply is safe. If it were me, I wouldn’t be using it for anything other than flushing the toilet.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Tennessee

The Most Trusted Name In News?


CNN’s transcript page now shows they covered the story once on Dec. 28. The incident took place on Dec. 22.

Thanks to a commenter for alerting me. And thanks CNN. I think America’s Liver® deserves better than that.

When I say CNN’s coverage of the Tennessee ash sludge spill has been dismal, here’s what I’m talking about. I perused their transcripts and noted how many times they covered the story:

Sunday, Dec. 28: zero
Saturday, Dec. 27: zero
Friday, Dec. 26: twice
Thursday, Dec. 25: zero
Wednesday, Dec. 24.: zero
Tuesday, Dec. 23: zero
Monday, Dec. 22: zero

Meanwhile, on Saturday the Santa shooting rampage in Covina, CA was covered five times, and then seven times on Friday. Yes I know, if it bleeds, it leads. Still, this is a bigger environmental disaster than the ExxonValdez–1 billion gallons of toxic sludge vs 11 million gallons from an oil tanker. You’d think that would register as more than a blip on CNN’s radar.

I know it sucks that this happened right before Christmas but I don’t recall CNN skimping on its coverage of the Indonesian tsunami, which occurred Dec. 26, 2004. Or Hurricane Katrina, which happened right before Labor Day.

Oh, I know, I know. If it bleeds it leads! Silly me.

I think I’ve figured out what the problem is. Here’s an excerpt from one of Friday’s two stories. The reporter is weekend anchor T.J. Holmes:

HOLMES: Yes. Just whatever you want to call it, it’s nasty stuff. The TVA says clearing the railroad tracks is the priority because that’s how they get the coal into the plant.

Ummm … the priority is to get more coal into the plant? Really? Holmes didn’t think that was a little … odd? Ooooo-kay ….

Here’s the interview with Holly Schean, whose home was destroyed in the sludge spill:

HOLLY SCHEAN, SLUDGE VICTIM: I don’t have a home anymore. It was moved 40 feet into the road. Everything in my home was destroyed. It’s gone — all of my clothing, but son’s stuff. Three and a half years of renovations that my father has done on this house is completely gone. There’s nothing left. 

HOLMES: Ms. Schean, that is horrible to hear, certainly right now around the holiday time. 

How did you get warning? I guess this is not really some rushing stuff, not so much fast moving that you can’t get a warning and get out of there. But I guess, how did it go that you knew something was up and that you needed to get out of there?

Now, how did he know this was “not really some rushing stuff”? I think Mr. Holmes was operating on some assumptions. Maybe he was confused by the word “sludge.”

But back to our transcript:

SCHEAN: Well, I actually wasn’t in the home. My father was the only one home at the time. 

I received a call a few minutes after the dike broke from my son’s football team mom asking me if we were OK. I had no idea what was going on. It’s been — she informed me that there was one man trapped in a house. She didn’t know the address. I then called dispatch, and that’s when they informed me that it was my father that was trapped.

So Schean’s father was trapped inside their house by the sludge spill, which T.J. Holmes assumed was such slow moving gook that people could receive ample warning in order to escape.

I don’t think Mr. Holmes has ever been in a mudslide.

I think I know what the problem is here. I think T.J. Holmes, and by extension CNN, simply doesn’t get it. I don’t think they understand the magnitude of what happened, the longterm environmental effects, or the fact that dozens of sites around the country are equally at risk.

Maybe they just don’t know any better.

Then again, maybe I’m being naive. There could be another reason. There could be a reason that all three of CNN’s presidential debates were sponsored by the coal lobby yet not one question about global warming was asked at any of them.

Maybe there’s another reason John Roberts touted “making gas from coal” and Ali Velshi pushed “very, very clean coal.”

Maybe it has something to do with those “great ads” on CNN and

I dunno. What do you think?

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, CNN, environment, media, Tennessee

>Follow The Coal Money

>Back in August, Appalachian Voices launched, tracking Big Coal’s contributions to members of Congress. I was not surprised to see Senators Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe and John D. Rockefeller listed as the top three recipients of campaign contributions from Big Coal. Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia are all big coal producers; Inhofe is also a vocal global warming denier.

Both of Tennessee’s Senators received coal money, but neither received an eyebrow-raising amount. According to FollowTheCoalMoney,

Lamar Alexander Received $31,500 in coal contributions during the 110th congress. $29,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Bob Corker Received $12,000 in coal contributions during the 110th congress. $11,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Tennessee is no longer considered a major coal-producing state, though we certainly use enough of it: SourceWatch says Tennessee ranks 14th in the country in coal-energy production.

Over in the House, however, it’s a different story. Bart Gordon, D-06, received the largest amount of Big Coal contributions in the 110th Congress of any Tennessee represenative–$55,500 worth, to be exact.

Zach Wamp was a distant second, at $17,800. David Davis was third, at $7,550. Marsha Blackburn received a paltry $3,500 and Jim Cooper just $1,000.


Rep. Gordon, why are you taking more money from the coal lobby than both of our U.S. Senators — combined?

Does this DOE contract awarded to Tennessee Tech have something to do with it?

It’s all very puzzling.

Since 2000, Alexander has received $71,500 from the coal lobby. Certainly not peanuts, but less than half what Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell took in this campaign year alone.

So now that we know neither of our Senators are bought and paid for by Big Coal, maybe we can ask them to take some action to ensure the state’s other coal-fired power plants are handling their coal ash waste safely, and maybe we could urge them to look for cleaner, safer alternatives for our power generation needs.

Just a thought.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Rep. Bart Gordon, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

>Memory Hole, Clean Coal Division

>Ah, remember when coal was clean, and CNN didn’t waste an opportunity to tell us so?

Good times, good times:

Coal Industry Sponsors CNN, CNN Praises Coal

CNN senior business correspondent Ali Velshi has been promoting coal-to-liquids technology and praising “clean coal, 99 percent clean” for an entire month. On Tuesday, CNN held a no-holds-barred coalfest, promoting coal-to-liquids and coal gasification technologies, calling coal “seductive,” and criticizing “blogs” who “go nuts” and “environmentalists” who “want to get rid of coal.”

What’s motivating CNN to closely mirror coal-industry talking points?

One hopes it has nothing to do with this:

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity is a $45 million front group for over 40 companies in the coal industry.

CNN’s response to the coal story has been anemic, at best. Two days after the disaster there was no coverage whatsoever, then links to local coverage.

I’d say it’s long past time for CNN to airdrop Ali Velshi at ground zero to remind us how clean coal really is.

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Filed under Ali Velshi, ash spill, clean coal, CNN, environment, media

After The Deluge, v.2

Let the cleanup coverup begin!

Building on my earlier post on this, police detain environmental activists at coal ash spill site:

KINGSTON (WATE) — Two environmental activists were detained by TVA police Friday as the utility stepped up security around the site of the ash spill at the Kingston Fossil Plant.

“All we are doing was taking pictures,” David Cooper, with the non-profit environmental group United Mountain Defense, told 6 News.

Cooper and another activist, Matt Landon, say that’s when TVA officials confronted them.

“There was a little pull-off on the road and we pulled over and we were immediately accosted  and told they would be arrested,” Cooper said.

The two men say they were then detained by police on Swan Pond Circle. A portion of that road is now blocked off by an increased presence from TVA police.

Just two days ago, 6 News was able to visit that same spot as passers-by stopped to take a look at the spill.

Yes, TVA has its own police force. That’s to be expected, when you’re a public utility that operates nuclear plants and whatnot. Anyway, United Mountain Defense is the group which posted this amazing video footage on YouTube; don’t know if these are the same guys who were detained or not. If you want to see the ash spill site first hand, don’t tune in to CNN. Watch this instead:

Lots more information on the spill at Twitter here (h/t, Newscoma.)

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

>View Of A Toxic Ash Spill

>Or not:

We tried to drive back to the spill site but TVA became irate when we pulled off the road and tried to take some pictures – Matt and I were detained for almost an hour at a check point yesterday – TVA personnel appear to be under great strain, which is understandable but IMO they over-reacted. All we were doing was taking photos. This is a similar situation to what happened in Martin County – they block the roads for “public safety.” Even the media is having trouble getting access now.

And because CNN and NPR and the rest waited several DAYS to cover the story, they won’t be getting any kind of decent information now.

Way to go, corporate media. No wonder people have been turning to blogs. You suck.

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Filed under ash spill, environment, Tennessee, TVA