A massive coal sludge accident in Tennessee

coal-ash-sludge-spill-tennessee01I never have been a fan of coal as it is by very far the most carbon dioxide emitting energy solution. It is also the most polluting as what occurred on December 22nd  in Tennessee  shows.

Indeed 48 times in volume of what was spilled by the Exxon Valdez was accidentally released over 160 hectares (400 acres) of land. This is huge and this video on YouTube will finish to convince you.

The pollution induced by this disaster will take a long time and a lot of money to be cleaned up. This is yet another reason for us to get rid of this energy source.

Here is what TreeHugger noted on that event:

Cleaning this up is such a monumental task that it could take years, and we still don’t know just how many toxic things are in that sludge and what the impacts on the local environment will be.

According to a second Discovery News piece on the subject:

America’s thirst for energy generates leaves between 122 and 129 million tons of waste from spent coal each year. Most of that is fly ash, a fine, talcum-like powder. Bottom ash, boiler slag, and sulfur-rich solids left over from scrubbers in the plants’ smoke stacks all have to be disposed of, too.

Strangely, the EPA “does not consider coal ash a hazardous waste, despite the fact that it contains mercury, selenium, and arsenic, among other heavy metals.” But not everybody agrees.

(…) From CNN:

Steve Ahlstedt, an independent aquatic biologist, told CNN that a spill of this magnitude probably will affect the area’s ecological balance.

“Once the ash has settled to the bottom of the rivers, all heavy metals will hang around for a long time,” he said. “When coal releases into the water, the mussel population goes into deep freeze. They are the ‘canary in the coal mine.’ They are the main indicator of how healthy our water is.”

(…) $165M Lawsuit Against TVA

The latest news were that a group of Tennessee landowners decided to sue the Tennessee Valley Authority yesterday for $165 million.

Now here is what the Huffington Post noted :

(…) a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from a retention pond at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant last week. Three homes were destroyed and 42 parcels of land were damaged.

(…) A massive cleanup effort has begun, but no one knows how long it could take because there’s never been an ash spill this large in the United States. It’s unclear whether the arsenic and heavy metals in the fly ash threaten the water, air and soil. It’s also unclear how much exposure to the toxic elements could threaten people’s health.

No one thinks recovery will be quick. Larry Preece’s property near Inez, Ky., was swamped with coal ash sludge eight years ago in a similar spill of more than 300 million gallons. He has some advice for Swan Pond residents: “Be prepared for a long ordeal.”

Despite a cleanup and the passing of years, Preece said he still worries about contamination. Traces of arsenic, mercury and other contaminants were found in the Kentucky sludge, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, based at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

A year after that spill, all visible signs of coal waste had been removed and lush vegetation had again sprouted. But Preece said soil beneath the carpet of newly planted grass is still speckled with black particles.

Like state and federal environmental officials, Grizzard is concerned about the fly ash drying out, becoming airborne and blowing to Tennessee home sites not initially affected by the sludge.

With that uncertainty, residents are worried about the value of their homes and land.

Grizzard said he heard a neighbor’s relative was trying to sell his summer home nearby for around $400,000. Now, he said, that homeowner thinks he’ll be lucky to get $100,000.

The article also provides a slideshow.

What bugs me – besides such a huge pollution – is that virtually nothing was heard about that in France. I know we don’t have many coal fired plants here as our electricity is mostly nuclear and hydro generated, but still…

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