Press Release | December 23, 2008

Flood of Coal Waste in TN Demonstrates Dangers and Need for Regulation, says SELC

A December 22 flood of toxic coal sludge—enough to fill 798 Olympic-size swimming pools—in Tennessee demonstrates the dangers of burning coal and underscores the need for stringent regulation of coal waste, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This holiday disaster shows that there really isn't such a thing as a clean coal plant,” said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “From mountaintop removal mining to smokestacks spewing soot and smog to ash ponds full of toxins, coal power is dirty–plain and simple. Nobody wants to find coal in their Christmas stocking, let alone coming through their home and polluting their river.” The coal sludge from a December 22 dike break at Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston coal-fired plant on a tributary of the Tennessee River covered approximately 400 acres, damaged 12 homes and contained toxins—mercury, arsenic, and lead among others–that could seep into the ground and flow downriver. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 2.6 million cubic yards of coal slurry rolled out of a waste pond Monday and cleanup may take weeks or even years. “The United States Environmental Protection Agency should immediately establish national safeguards for the disposal of coal wastes and enforceable regulations,” said Taylor. “At a minimum, these safeguards should include siting restrictions, structural requirements and long-term financial assurance to clean up any resulting pollution.”

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