Tennessee coal ash slide, Day 3

UPDATE: Greenpeace sent a photographer to the area, and while the photographer was prevented from getting close, he got some good shots here. Also, both CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News devoted primetime to this “sludgeslide” (below the cut). And finally, frontpage NYTimes tomorrow AM will have this article on the ashslide: Coal Ash Spill Revives Issue of Its Hazards.

The Kingston Steam Plant ashslide is already being called the southeast’s worst environmental disaster by some environmentalists and journalists. It appears that some of the national media outlets are finally picking up the story, although this disaster remains woefully undercovered.

CNN has finally picked up the story (last updated around 6 AM MST) with interviews of two Appalachian environmentalists, Chandra Taylor of the Southern Environmental Law Center and Dave Cooper of the Mountaintop Removal Road Show.

Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that “in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can’t call it toxic.”

[Chandra Taylor] called that statement “irresponsible.”

Cleaning up the mess, which could fill nearly 800 Olympic-size swimming pools, could take months or years, Taylor said.

“We’re very concerned about how long it’s going to take” to clean the spill, she told CNN.

Cooper agreed, saying, “It’s 4, 5 feet deep. How are you going to scoop it up? Where are you going to put it?”

The New York Times has also put up an article on the slide, with a focus on the safety of area’s water supply. One thing that the NYTimes article had that I hadn’t seen anywhere else is the following quote:

The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate fly ash as a hazardous waste material but is considering doing so, said Laura Nilles, a spokeswoman for the agency.

I knew that fly ash was unregulated, but did not know that the EPA was considering regulating as hazardous waste. Given how toxic fly ash is, it’s probably deserving of regulation instead of use as a concrete and gypsum drywall (wallboard) additive.

The best coverage is of course regional, with the Knoxville News Sentinal (amazing images here) and the Nashville Tennessean (two image galleries of the slide here and heredoing the most in print and WBIR, WDEF, and WVLT covering the story extensively.

Another souce is the blog Front Porch Blog at Appalachian Voices, where environmental journalist Bill Kovarik reports that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has recommended people increase the concentration and reactivity of the suspected heavy metals in their water by boiling the water before drinking it. And James Bruggers has a video of a resident’s story about the slide at his Courier-Journal blog.

UPDATED: 1Sky, a climate environmental group, blogged about the ashslide today and put it into the context of so-called “clean coal” here. So did Democracy Now!. And so did the blogging wing of the Center for American Progress, Think Progress.

As for other traditional news outlets with national reach, here’s how they’re covering this story:

So much for the much needed national exposure for this story. I guess that it needs to be pushed harder.

There are more links and older news in yesterday’s post.

Categories: Energy, Environment/Nature

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9 replies »

  1. I understand that, Wulf – most folks are far more paranoid about radioactivity than they are about the more dangerous chemical threats all around them. But that doesn’t change the fact that something that most people don’t expect to be radioactive – coal combustion byproducts – actually are.