TVA Gives Fly Ash-Stricken Town $40 Million

Readers of this blog are all-too-familiar with December 2008’s catastrophic <"">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill that dumped a mind-boggling 5.4 million cubic yards—over one billion gallons—of toxic coal sludge into Tennessee’s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding the TVA Kingston plant. The spill ravaged the environment, the economy, and the lives and health of the families, wildlife, and aquatic life who live in the area.

Now, finally, the community that has been seriously inconvenienced, in many cases, displaced, is going to receive some $40 million dollars from the TVA—according to CNN, this country’s largest utility—for so-called economic development efforts. Critics argue that the money is doing little more than prettying up the county and will not cover environmental and medical issues, reported CNN. TVA spokeswoman Barbara Martocci said that the funding will go toward infrastructure and recreation, “so we can help improve quality of life,” quoted CNN.

The sheer massiveness of the spill is, by most accounts, incomprehensible. Consider these comparisons by CNN: The toxic sludge spilled in December could fill about 800 Olympic-sized swimming pools and the 300 acres on which the sludge spilled accounted for an area larger than the historic Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.

Kingston’s mayor, Troy Beets, speaking through the utility said, “This foundation offers an important opportunity for achieving local projects for the benefit of local citizens. As the foundation board, we will begin our work together by first considering the projects that our communities have identified as priorities,” quoted CNN.

Not everyone agrees, and residents have some valid and serious concerns regarding the heavy metals that were released with the spill—arsenic, lead, selenium, and radioactive products such as chromium and barium, reported CNN. Some of these toxins and chemicals have been known to cause cancer, as we have long been reporting.

Not only will residents not personally receive any of the monies, they also complain that fly ash can still be seen in the atmosphere and some are suffering ill effects from the myriad pollutants released in December, said CNN. Some complain of respiratory problems and headaches.

Resident Sarah McCoin was quoted by CNN as saying, “Initially, it looks like a good deal…. In reality, you have a situation that will only be politically correct…. Our environment is damaged, and there are people here who are really, really sick…. We are continually fighting respiratory problems.” McCoin lives about a mile from the spill.

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Earlier this year, we wrote about how information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, citing a report by

Numerous studies have concluded that coal dumps leach dangerous toxins into the environment that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health outcomes in water and wildlife populations, including frightening guarantees of developing cancer from drinking contaminated water and suffering damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs from toxic metal exposure, such as cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants far above levels that are considered safe,” said Environmental Integrity, previously. The group also noted that the danger to wildlife and ecosystems is “off the charts, with one contaminant—boron—expected to leach into the environment at levels two thousand times thresholds generally considered to be safe.”

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