Posted by: calvinsjc | December 30, 2008

A Word from about the TVA Ash Spill

Firsthand account of the TVA coal ash dam failure

Just before Christmas, the true cost and danger of coal became apparent in the town of Harriman, Tennessee.

On the morning of December 22, the earthen dam at the Kingston Power Plant containing coal fly ash failed catastrophically, unleashing a six-foot wall of toxic water and mud.

By the time the flood subsided, more than a billion gallons of coal sludge had damaged 15 homes — three beyond repair — before pouring into the nearby Emory and Clinch rivers.

In comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled a “mere” 11 million gallons of crude oil. And the coal fly ash spill in Harriman is three times larger than the October, 2000 coal sludge spill in Martin County, Kentucky, which the EPA called “the largest environmental disaster east of the Mississippi.”

Miraculously, there were no human injuries in last week’s spill. Yet the Emory and Clinch rivers flow into the Tennessee River — the primary water source for many Tennessee towns and cities, including Chattanooga. Coal fly ash contains heavy metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium. And though it will take years for the full affect of this environmental disaster to be known, has teamed with the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper and the Waterkeeper Alliance to test the waters’s of the Clinch and Emory Rivers for contaminants. To learn more about these discoveries and find links to news, blog posts, photos, and videos of the event, visit:

In short, the toxic coal ash spill at Harriman reveals what we’ve known all along — there is no such thing as clean coal.

As Grist magazine points out, “there is no “clean coal” that doesn’t produce millions of tons of toxic sludge, just as there is not yet any form of coal that doesn’t send millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.”

Despite the spill at Harriman, TN, Big Coal and their lobbyists will be doing all they can in the coming year to convince decision makers in Washington that “clean coal” is the solution to America’s foreign energy dependence. They’ll do everything in their power to obfuscate the true cost of coal — more than 470 mountains destroyed to date, thousands of miles of stream destroyed, and millions of pounds of toxic chemicals released into the environment and our nation’s waters.

But we can beat these industry lobbyists — and put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining in America — if we keep up the pressure in the new year.

That’s why I am turning to you today to ask for your generous support. As 2008 comes to an end, can you make a contribution of $50, $100 — or the most generous amount you can afford — to help as we prepare for the big challenges and opportunities coming our way in 2009?

Click here or visit to make a special year-end gift to the mountains we love.

Your contributions to supports the efforts of groups working to end mountaintop removal coal mining and to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for Appalachia — and all of America.

I hope that you will consider’s leadership in the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining worthy of your generous year-end support.

From all of us at — have a safe and Happy New Year.

Matt Wasson

P.S. With the holidays in full swing, many people have not heard about the environmental disaster in Harriman, TN. Visit to learn more about the coal fly ash spill and to help spread the word


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