Coal Ash Disaster

When an electrical generating plant burns coal it produces fly ash, consisting of fine particles that "fly" up the smokestack and have to be trapped, and heavier bottom ash. Both of these combustion byproducts are stored in landfills, either together as in the TVA landfill featured in the slideshow and videos below, or separately as in the Westar landfills in Kansas.

As reported by SourceWatch, the coal ash produced by coal-fired plants in the U.S. contains large quantities of toxic metals, including 44 tons of mercury, 4601 tons of arsenic, 970 tons of beryllium, 496 tons of cadmium, 6275 tons of chromium, 6533 tons of nickel, and 1305 tons of selenium. On December 22, 2008 in Kingston, TN a coal plant dike broke releasing 5.4 million cubic yards of sludge containing toxic chemicals including arsnic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury spilled into the Emory River. The 40-acre pond, whose dam broke, was used by the Tennesee Valley Authority as a containment area for ash generated by the coal-burning Kingston fossil Plant in Harriman, Tennesse more information. Many homes were destroyed or damaged and the spill contaminated area water wells, the river and destroyed untold aquatic life.

In the slideshow below, Donna Liseby, Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, hands off a sample of coal slurry collected in the Emory River just below the TVA coal ash spill to the Kansas Riverkeeper. Donna was one of the Waterkeepers who took samples in the Emory River on December 27, 2008 and posted a video on YouTube.

In terms of our local situation, the Jeffrey Energy Center is ranked 99th out of the top 100 most polluting power plants for storage of coal combustion byproducts; during 2006 Jeffrey Energy Center released 190,417 pounds into surface impoundments.

Coal Ash in the news

TVA Report on clean up

Tennessee cleanup sends coal ash, anxiety, to Alabama site

Toxic Waters: From Air to Water-- A growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, but many of them are creating another problem: water pollution.

Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways

Groups link ash ponds, cancer

Coal ash is damaging water, health in 34 states, groups say

Coal ash sites called danger to neighbors

Ash ponds pose risk

Report warns of cancer risks from power plant coal waste

Environmentalists highlight risk from coal ash in 2007 report

Coal ash dangers outlined

Report: Georgia among worst in nation regarding dangerous coal ash ponds

Ponds at power plants pose risk to drinking water

Report renews efforts against proposed Santee Cooper plant

Study claims connection to coal ash and cancer

PBS NewsHour transcript and streaming video

Plant That Spilled Coal Ash Had Earlier Leak Problems                        

Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation                                          

Coal ash spill reveals risks, lapses in waste regulation                            

Collapse of the Clean Coal Myth

Coal ash legislation introduced in House

What's My Connection to Mountaintop Removal?