Drinking water may be contaminated by coal ash spill

AlterNet.org is reporting that during testing of the water in the Emory River, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) may have intentionally collected the samples from clean areas, backing up the utility’s claim that that residents’ drinking water is safe. The Emory is a major supplier of drinking water in the area and a popular spot for water sports such as swimming, boating and fishing. However, third-party tests have found high levels of toxins in the river as well as in private wells, according to the report.

More than a billion gallons of coal ash sludge spilled over 300 acres of community property and into the Emory River last December after a coal ash impoundment pond at the TVA’s Kingston, Tennessee coal-burning plant failed. Coal ash contains dangerous toxins such as arsenic and lead which can lead to serious health concerns such as cancer, liver damage and neurological disorders.

Since the spill, the TVA has undergone a $1 million a day cleanup effort that is expected to ring in between $525 million and $825 million. TVA has vowed to restore the land to as good, if not better, than new.

However, residents are skeptical. Many have complained of breathing problems and at least one young child has tested positive for heavy metal in his blood. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tests of water near a drinking water treatment plant the day after the spill showed alarming amounts of arsenic – 149 times higher than allowed by federal drinking water standards.

While the government is claiming that water treatment facilities can effectively filter tap water for toxins, some residents say that they have noticed a gray film in their tap water and have experienced a burning sensation on their skin and in their eyes after taking a shower.