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TVA Coal Fly Ash Disaster 1 Year Anniversary and Videos

by Matt Landon Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 4:38 AM

On December 22, 2008 the largest coal fly ash disaster in the world occurred in Roane County, Tennessee along the banks of the Emory River at the Kingston Electric Coal Plant which is owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

Coal fly ash is a toxic by- product produced by burning coal to make electricity. Coal fly ash is currently unregulated in the United States. TVA has been very reluctant to take responsibility for the disaster that they created and took active steps to keep the news of the disaster out of the media.

As part of the United States federal government, TVA has been investigated by its own Office of Inspector General which has issued numerous reports detailing how badly TVA officials and employees responded to this disaster. The worst and most telling reports are yet to come. TVA had more than 40 years of internal reports showing the structural weakness of the failed coal fly ash storage pond and they chose to ignore the problems and continue to stack the coal fly ash to a height of more than 60 feet using the wet storage method.

It has been one year since the disaster. By viewing the following videos you will see that the situation has gotten worse as the trail of coal fly ash becomes more dispersed. So far the coal fly ash has floated down the Emory River, Clinch River and Tennessee River all the way to Alabama. As the ash continues its downstream march it will eventually reach the Ohio River, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. The main points of concern with water quality right now are the elevated levels of arsenic, selenium and other heavy metals which have leached out of the coal fly ash and into the drinking water of millions of people downstream, not to mention all of the animals which live in the water or eat the fish. Kingston, TN is the nearest town whose water intakes are a mere 6 miles downstream. Chattanooga, TN is the next largest city downstream of the disaster.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has permitted the spilled coal fly ash to be shipped via railroad to Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown, Perry County, Alabama. It has been documented that this landfill is currently pumping the landfill leachate (landfill juice) into the ditches surrounding the landfill and right next to the homes of local residents. These residents have been told that the coal fly ash is safe.

Many residents are concerned about their health. An independent air monitoring program started by Roane County residents, United Mountain Defense and the Global Community Monitor has shown that on a least one dry day in October 2009 that there existed elevated levels of arsenic and cadmium in the air surrounding the disaster site. On Feb 3, 2009 a massive dust storm more than 100 feet tall and half a mile wide was documented as it blew off the coal ash disaster site. Many residents have reported respiratory distress up to a 10 mile radius around the disaster site with symptoms that include burning eyes, nosebleeds, sinus infections, ear infections, scratchy throats, rashes, skin sensitivity to sun, nausea, vomiting, headaches, migraines, asthma and many other ailments. Many of these residents had never been sick on such a regular basis before the disaster and now have mounting health bills which they cannot pay. Yet TVA is continuously allowed to state that there is no danger from the coal fly ash and none of the workers involved in the cleanup and recovery efforts are made to wear respiratory protection.

This disaster occurred because of negligence. This disaster is not an isolated incident and as all of the coal fly ash storage sites around the world continue to age many more people will be at risk of having to deal with such a disaster in their neighborhoods. If you live near a coal burning electric power plant you may also live near a coal ash dump. Coal fly ash is NOT safe! This is a disaster that the world needs to learn about and we intend to help spread the word about it, will you help us spread the word?

For more info check out the following websites

Thank you for your time, matt landon Appalachian Organizer for United Mountain Defense


Here is a video that a Roane County family produced about living next to the TVA Coal Ash Disaster. TVA refuses to evacuate them.

Here is a video made by a resident of Roane County, Delano Williams who lives about 1 mile from the TVA Coal Ash Disaster.

This dust storm was documented on Feb 3, 2009, the day that Matt Landon got back from the training for the citizen's air monitoring program.

Perry County, Alabama Uniontown Citizens speak out about Arrowhead Landfill where TVA coal fly ash is being shipped and dumped by rail. It has been discovered that the landfill is also dumping the leachate (landfill juice) into the ditches surrounding the landfill and right next to the homes in this video.

Marion, AL coal ash landfill leachate issue. Arrowhead Landfill is dumping tanker truckload after tanker truckload of landfill juice into a waste water treatment pond which can’t handle the increased load

Proposed dump for TVA coal fly ash on a coal mine valley fill in Cumberland County, Tennessee

Data from the citizen’s air monitoring program started by Roane County residents, United Mountain Defense and the Global Community Monitor 2nd round Raw data 2nd round Air Data Page 1 2nd round Air Data Spreadsheet Expert interpretation of air data

The following are a few words from our air analyst about what these latest air samples mean.

Attached is my interpretation of metal levels in the two air samples collected near the TVA coal ash spill on October 19th and 20th. I added the interpretation to the spreadsheet containing the interpretation of metal levels in the two previously collected air samples (15 July 2009 and 1 October 2009). Rows 4 and 5 contain the new data.

Of note is a ‘hot’ sample (the one collected on 20 October 2009) with a cadmium level that exceeds the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment’s Chronic Reference Level for cadmium. This sample also has an arsenic level that is above the World Health Organization’s guideline value of 0.66 nanograms per cubic meter to prevent a one per one million increased risk of cancer as a result of lifetime exposure.

If you average the concentrations in all four samples (assigning a ‘0’ value to non-detects), then the average cadmium level is below (60% of) the California OHEAA’s Chronic REL for cadmium, but the average arsenic level is above the WHO guideline value of 0.66 nanograms per cubic meter to prevent a one per one million increased risk of cancer as a result of lifetime exposure.

I urge caution in how you publicize these results for two reasons. 1) The cadmium levels in the air samples are less than 3 times their uncertainty levels; 2) the arsenic levels in the air samples are less than 2 times their uncertainty levels.

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