Another TVA Ash Spill

For Christmas, rather than Clean Coal carolers, too many in Tennessee were serenaded with evacuation notices and concerns about drinking water due to the massive Kingston ash pond rupture.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Amid all the hullaboo about Clean Coal, most focus on the issue of CO2 emissions. In fact, there is a partial truth about sort-of less dirty coal, ever-improving filtering of particulates is creating ever more fly ash. And, that fly ash either needs to be used (concrete, gypsum board, etc) or simply stored indefinitely. A prime storage option: Ash Ponds.

For Christmas, rather than Clean Coal carolers, too many in Tennessee were serenaded with evacuation notices and concerns about drinking water due to the massive Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston ash pond rupture.

Earlier today, another TVA ash pond (Alabama) has reported a "leak" which has already had materials flow into Widows Creek.

TVA is investigating a leak from a gypsum pond at its Widows Creek coal-burning power plant in northeastern Alabama, a spokesman said at about 10:45 a.m. Central Time.

The leak, discovered before 6 a.m. has been stopped, according to John Moulton, with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Now, this site stores more ash than Kingston. According to TVA reporting, which has not proved accurate in multiple instances, this leak is stopped. Let's hope that Mr Moulton has his facts right.

"Some materials flowed into Widows Creek, although most of the leakage remained in the settling pond," he said

Really wonder what "some" means, don't you?

The Widows Creek Fossil Plant is located on Guntersville Reservoir on the Tennessee River. It has eight coal-fired units and was completed in 1965. The plant consumes about 10,000 tons of coal a day. The ash from that coal was in the pond that broke there.

Consider this for a moment: these are units going on 44 years old, belching out emissions and building up ash day after day, year after year. A simple question: How much longer can we afford to let this go on?

There are major efforts to stop new coal-fired plants. But, it is time to start working on sending these plants to a well-merited and much-needed early retirement program as soon as feasibly possible.

The irony

This occurred amid Senate EPW hearings, yesterday and today, on the Kingtston spill. From Senator Boxer's opening statement yesterday

I would like to begin today's hearing by acknowledging and welcoming some of the people who live in the area devastated by the coal ash spill in Tennessee. I spoke with them yesterday, and heard how this disaster forever changed their lives. They are farmers, ranchers, nurses, and parents ... The beautiful place where they lived was instantly transformed by a wall of ash, water and debris. They are anxious about the spill's potential effects on health, especially to children, and to their livelihoods.

While their's is a sad predicament, the risk is not isolated to this one isolated, out-of-sight, out-of-mind community

For the holidays ...

While the coal industry peddled this for Christmas:

As for "no pollutants to see," this is what they delivered:

Over 130 million tons of coal combustion waste is produced in the U.S. every year. This is the equivalent of a train of boxcars stretching from Washington, D.C. to Melbourne, Australia.

A 2007 US EPA report found 67 ash impoundments or landfills in 23 states that had caused or were suspected of causing contamination, including to ground or surface waters. EPA knew of dozens of other sites but lacked sufficient information to single out the cause.

This is a big (both in quanity and in terms of 'quality' (importance)) challenge. And, this is yet another way we are poisoning ourselves with our coal-addiction.

Some related items of interest


Barack Obama should go see the "True Face of Coal" and visit the areas affected by the Kingston release of more than one billion gallons of toxic ash sludge.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot