Monday, June 08, 2009

TVA Digging Itself Into Huge Environmental Injustice Hole

Has the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) ever heard of environmental justice? First there were reports that the contaminated fly ash from the massive December Kingston, Tennessee spill was being shipped to a landfill near a black community in Georgia and now there are reports they are doing the same thing in one of Alabama's poorest countries.

TVA already sent a test shipment of 1,500 tons of the sludge in 15 railcars in May to the Arrowhead Landfill in the mostly black county, where U.S. Census statistics show 31 percent of families live in poverty. Don't they know that these environmental injustice issues are only exacerbating their situation when they have to answer to Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson [chair of Congressional committee with jurisdiction] and EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson?

Once again, a big industry is not listening to the advice of AAEA, which could solve this entire situation.

TVA plans to dispose of millions of tons of coal ash from a massive spill in Tennessee at a giant landfill in one of Alabama's poorest counties. Fly ash is not currently regulated as a toxic waste, but the spill is about to push federal officials to change that designation. Unfortunately it places federal and state officials in the unenviable position of not having a legal basis for denying TVA the right to ship and dispose of this ash as a nonhazardous waste. The ash/sludge broke through an earthen wall of the retention pond and spilled water-soaked contaminated ash at the Kingston plant site, covered 300 acres of nearby land and spilled into the Emory River. The final cost of the cleanup is estimated to be almost $1 billion.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management received notice from TVA this week that 3 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Dec. 22 spill at Kingston are bound for a privately owned dump in Perry County. Estimates of the spill are as high as 5.4 million cubic yards. It is one of the nation's largest commercial landfills, located just outside Uniontown about 100 miles from Birmingham. The waste will be shipped 300 miles to the landfill by rail. If EPA aproves, TVA plans to begin shipping 85 railcars loaded with coal ash every two days beginning June 16. About 2.7 million cubic yards of ash needs to be dredged from waters in eastern Tennessee and disposed. Based on the TVA test and figures, shipment of the waste would weigh about 3.9 million tons and require about 35,000 railroad cars to transport. The disposal contract is for a year and could be extended. (AP, CBS News, 6/5/09))

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