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EPA and TVA Nix Coal Ash Spill Cleanup Efforts

Farron Cousins
Desmogblog / News Report
Published: Monday 12 November 2012
“The dangers of coal ash are well documented. And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Kingston River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills.”
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Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end. 

But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.

In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.

Reports say that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge remain in the Kingston River, a result of the 2008 dam rupture that released the coal ash from the processing plant.  According to the EPA and TVA, it's perfectly fine to allow those contaminants to remain in the river.  As the EPA puts it, dredging up the remaining coal ash would actually release even more pollutants into the water – including contaminants left over from previous industrial accidents and Department of Energy projects. 

To put it more succinctly:  The “leave it lie” mindset occurred in the past, making it impossible to clean up current spills without disturbing previous contaminants that weren’t cleaned.  Pollution will now be left piled on top of other pollution, and so on and so on.

To make matters even worse, the industry and EPA managed to convince residents of Kingston and Roane County that this is the best solution at a town hall meeting on the subject Thursday night.

The residents have lost the battle, and the TVA emerged as the clear winner in their own disaster.  Had the EPA forced TVA to clean up the entire spill, the company would have paid nearly $180 million for the efforts.  Instead, they get to “monitor” the natural river processes for the next few decades, at an estimated cost of $10 million.  That’s a savings for the TVA of more than 90%.

While the blame for the actual spill rests upon the shoulders of the TVA, the EPA has put itself in a position now where they can share a part of the blame for the faltering clean up efforts.  Over the last few years, the EPA has been reluctant to issue any form of ruling on the toxicity of coal ash, instead opting to hold town hall meetings to get input from U.S. citizens that have been hit with a barrage of misinformation from the dirty energy industry on coal ash. 

The dangers of coal ash are well documented.  And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Kingston River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills.  The next time this happens, and under current circumstances that is incredibly likely, it will just be adding more pollutants to the mix, and they’ll sit in the river and wait for the next spill to add to the pile. 



ABOUT Farron Cousins

Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer magazine, and his writings have appeared in publications such as California's Information Press and Pensacola's Independent Weekly.  He has also worked for the Ring of Fire radio program with hosts Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Mike Papantonio since August 2004, and is currently the producer of the program, in charge of guest booking, research, and scripting the week's show.  Farron also runs Mike Papantonio's publishing company - Seville Publishing. Farron received his bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of West Florida in 2005 and became a member of American MENSA in 2009.  Follow him on Twitter @farronbalanced.

There is no excuse for

There is no excuse for pollution, thereis no way that coal can be clean. There is no future for this crap and the TVA should be made to clean it up. Maybe now that we have an administration that is less in the clutches of big money we will have a chance.

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