The SpillSeveral readers have wondered why I have not said anything up to this point about the dreadful coal ash spill near Harriman and Kingston that, contrary to the assertions of TVA and so-called experts, threatens a large portion of the State's drinking water supply if not certainly and absolutely contained. Everyone, it seems, is covering this story and the meeting yesterday with the President of the Tennessee Valley Authority that occurred as a result of the initial spill of coal ash from the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant.
As Nicole often points out, when East Tennessee makes the national news, it is rarely because of anything good, even though much good occurs here every day. To believe some of the local press, the residents are over-reacting...I do not believe that to be the case. The fish kill as a result of this spill has been massive, and the people are frightened:
Officials say the film is due to cenospheres - small, waterproof balls of
material used as fillers in such products as paint and concrete - that crews
continue to skim from the surface. The agency says the material that resulted
from the spill won't cause ecological damage but can irritate the eyes or the
"We're worried about our health," said Tom Vereb, another resident. "It's
already starting to smell out here. When it gets hot and starts to dry, this
stuff's going to turn into powder. We'll probably never go swimming in that
I do not blame the residents in the least for being upset and concerned about both their long-term health and their future, and I further think that TVA is not being completely truthful with residents about the nature and long-term effects of the spill. I would not drink the water nor fish it were I in this situation.
Typically, however, the inevitable Greek Chorus has sprung up to declare that the spill is the fault of the Republicans, George W. Bush, conservatism, and that the root cause of the spill eminates only from the last eight years (were the outgoing administration a Democratic one, similar cries would be heard from conservatives and Republicans. Similarly, calls from the President-Elect and his Democratic colleagues to bankrupt the coal industry would destroy a large swath of the economy of Appalachia and would be helpful only if Barack Obama is willing to replace coal energy technology with nuclear power, and I am not holding my breath for that to happen.
The reality is that the Harriman sledge spill is but the latest chapter in a long history of selective federal neglect of East Tennessee, especiallly where TVA is concerned-people often forget that TVA is a federal agency. Yes, TVA brought electric power to these mountains, but only took care to see to the impact on both the land and the people when it impacted TVA's mission. This neglect predates the present administration by many years and even decades, and must be addressed, because it is not merely an issue with TVA, but one of every federal agency who has operated or is operating in this State: How careful are they with our collective resources, time, and treasure? It is a fair question that must be addressed with great care if long-term solutions are to be found that will prevent similar disasters at the hands of public agencies.