Tennessee Toxic Spill Update

Devastation from the recent coal ash disaster at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) power plant near Knoxville is far from cleaned up, let alone done and over with, but already confessions have begun.

Last week Tom Kilgore, CEO of the TVA, admitted before the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee that their plant had experienced two less severe leaks in 2003 and 2005, but left those breaches inadequately repaired.

Mr. Kilgore’s excuse of heavy rains and freezing temperatures doesn’t excuse that the TVA was not prepared for such conditions in the first place, nor does it justify why the holding ponds are not lined.

It seems there’s blame enough to go around for everyone. Committee chairwoman, Senator Barbara Boxer (D, CA,) also admits to a portion of responsibility for the spill, in that she has been chairwoman of the committee since 2007 but had paid no attention to the T.V.A.’s practices as pertains to toxic byproducts.

Senator Boxer and other members of the Environment and Public Works Committee promised to press for stronger coal ash regulations, including a requirement that it be stored in lined pits. The senator suggested that the coal ash be dried as well, to prevent it from flooding homes and rivers. This may be ill-advised, though, as the dried coal ash could then become airborne. If not well contained, people might breathe the ash, or have it settling in their homes, where it could be ingested.
We have more than 1300 toxic waste ponds in the United States, each full of heavy metals known to cause cancer, respiratory disease, crippling nervous system disorders (as well as reproductive complications.) They’re all there because of fossil-fuel powered generator plants. Isn’t this proof enough that it’s high time we switched to wind, solar and hydro-generated energy sources? Perhaps that would prove a better way to spend the money than to be lining pools and drying toxic coal ash. Wouldn’t you agree, Senator Boxer?

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