Wednesday, December 24, 2008

As Tennessee goes agog at coal-ash spill, enviros urge Obama to block more disposal in old mines

UPDATES, Dec. 29: So many people showed up for a meeting among TVA officials and local residents that it had to be moved to the county high school, Terri Likens of the Roane County News reports. The New York Times has an excellent graphic with its Dec. 25 story on the issues raised by the spill, except it errs in saying the Clinch River flows 100 miles to Chattanooga. (See below.) The mapping mistake recalls some geographic history: In pioneer days, the Tennessee River was deemed to begin at Kingston, at the confluence of the Clinch and the river that flowed through Knoxville, then named the Holston. But Knoxville folks wanted to be on the Tennessee, and they argued that it began at the confluence of the Holston and the French Broad, upstream from their city. They prevailed.

The day after a coal-ash retention pond broke at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Kingston, Tenn., closing a river and inundating about a dozen homes with sludge, 39 environmental groups asked President-elect Barack Obama to reject a pending regulation that would make it easier to dispose of such ash in abandoned coal mines.

On Monday, an estimated 500 million gallons of sludge went into the Emory River near its confluence with the Clinch River, which shortly downsteam flows into the Tennessee River, impounded as Watts Bar Lake. Residents "had trouble coming to grips with the scope," reports Terri Likens of the Roane County News (who took the photo). "Depending on where they looked, the scene was like a moonscape or piles of pavement scraped up from a giant roadway." (Read more)

On Tuesday, the environmental groups said coal ash "has already polluted water in 23 states and the new rule would open the way for more pollution by failing to require consideration of risks to human health and the environment before new disposal sites are approved," reports Don Hopey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Coal-fired power plants produce approximately 129 million tons of waste ash a year, the second-largest industrial waste stream in the nation. About 25 million tons are dumped in coal mines," Hopey writes. "The waste contains numerous hazardous materials including arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, boron, thallium and molybdenum. Water pollution has resulted in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, North Dakota and New Mexico." (Read more)

1 comment:

James Bruggers said...

estimate is now 1 billion gallons... just fyi
see courier-journal/earthblog