Coal, not so clean after all.
Parts of Tennessee remain buried under toxic sludge today after a major disaster at a coal plant. A forty-acre pond containing toxic coal ash has collapsed, spilling out millions of gallons of coal ash. Environmentalists say the spill is more than thirty times larger than the Exxon Valdez, but the story has received little national attention.
And what exactly makes coal ash so toxic:
RICK HIND: Well, you’re talking about heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, and all of these metals are actually bioaccumulate in the environment. You saw pictures—in fact, if you go to The Tennessean website or the TVA website, you’ll see just these amazing aerial and on-site photographs of the damage. It reminds me of a volcanic eruption, if you remember the mudslides from Mount St. Helens. It’s just uprooting and moving houses off their foundations. As you said, sludge piling up six feet high, 400 acres covered, as well as fish kills. And now, much of that slug of toxicity, the heavy metals, mercury, for example, can bioaccumulate in fish 60,000 times. So you could see long-term damage from this particular disaster, as well as any leakage that’s been going on.
That’s why we’re calling for a criminal investigation, because really under the Clean Water Act, there’s supposed to be a contingency plan that anticipates this and prevents this kind of disaster. What happened here could happen again right on site at several other of the ponds still holding this toxic sludge. And every other coal plant in the country has a similar problem.