The Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown, Ala., may be the “Cadillac” of all landfills in the industry, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and dumping millions of tons of toxic coal ash recovered from a spill site in Tennessee into the landfill may generate several jobs and millions of dollars in storage fees for the impoverished community, but residents of the mostly black community are hardly thrilled. A standing-room-only crowd gathered Wednesday night to hear plans for the dump in their community. Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson voiced the concerns of the crowd, saying he was tired of poor areas being dumping grounds for the rest of the nation.
The coal ash originates from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plant in Kingston, Tenn. Last December, more than a billion gallons of sludge from a breached impoundment pond poured down on to a neighboring community. The toxic wave knocked houses from their foundations, destroyed property, and contaminated nearby waterways when it spilled into the Emory River and traveled downstream.
In the months since, property values plummeted and residents have reported respiratory problems and heightened anxiety. Some people, including a toddler, have tested positive for heavy metals in their bloodstream. Coal ash is toxic, containing arsenic, lead, chromium, manganese and barium, which have been linked to serious health concerns including cancer, liver damage and neurological complications.
For months, the TVA has been undergoing a huge cleanup effort that is estimated to cost as much as $1 billion before it is complete. The cleanup effort includes shipping recovered coal ash from the spill site and storing it in distant landfills, including Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County.