Updates will be in reverse chronological order below.
Update: The Sierra Club has a press release on their site that says, among other things:
According to media reports, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected all of the coal ash facilities in the state after the Kingston spill last week and pronounced them safe.
It’s too early to say whether the gypsum release at the Widows Creek plant qualifies as “toxic” as the Sierra Club claims in the release. But it’s certainly fair to say that the inspections either a) were insufficiently detailed or b) didn’t include gypsum ponds since they’re not technically “fly ash containment.”
Update: There are reports of a third spill as well, this as a result of problems repairing a TVA dam on the Ocoee River. It’s unclear from the Tennessean link above whether it’s toxic coal sludge or “just” sediments that had collected behind the dam. What is clear, however, is that there are a lot of people watching the TVA’s activities throughout the Tennessee River valley very closely right now, and when they spot something, they’re telling reporters (and often Anne Paine of the Tennessean).
The Tennessee Valley Authority is having a bad winter. According to several news sources, the Widows Creek power plant in northern Alabama has had another containment pond breach.
At least this leak was small (estimated to be about 10,000 gallons, according to the News-Sentinel) and of a much less dangerous material (gypsum mud, which is the output of sulfur scrubbing operations, according to the AP story.) However, reports that the release was coal ash appears at this time to be incorrect.
I’ll run updates as this story develops.
(Note: I got links from a Tennessean article first, but their website won’t load. I’ve been having that problem for three weeks now and anyone who has an ear in the Tennessean IT group might want to push them to upgrade their servers – they won’t get linked from me again, even if they break the story, until the fix their page load problems. However, the first link to the WBIR page is the actual Tennessean story, crossposted.)