Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kingston Ash Spill

By Don Safer
Board President
Tennessee Environmental Council

The ash slide disaster at TVA's Kingston Coal plant should never have happened. Warnings have been issued about the inadequacy of our treatment of coal combustion waste for years. The impoundment that failed had been studied for better solutions because of numerous smaller leaks and seeps. This is another example of the oxymoronic nature of the term "clean coal." There is nothing clean about coal.

Primary responsibility certainly lies with TVA. This was their creation. In 2003, they deemed alternate disposal options or fundamental improvement expenditures of $2.6 to 25 million "too costly". (To put that into perspective, $3.2 million is this year's salary and performance bonus package for TVA CEO Tom Kilgore.) They piled this stuff up to a height of over 55 feet while applying cheaper "band-aid" solutions. Incredibly, TVA claims to have been blind-sided by the collapse and blames it on the weather: freezing temperatures and high rainfall. Adding insult to injury, in a classic case of TVA-speak, they told the press and public that no health and environmental risk were posed by this toxic mess of materials filled with known carcinogens.

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