Environmental

Coal ash spill site still devastated one year later

Nearly one year after a coal ash impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston, Tenn., coal-burning plant breached, sending 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash on to 300 acres of a neighboring community, toppling houses, destroying property and contaminating the Emory River, it’s hard to believe that the TVA can live up to its promise to restore the land to its original beauty. Even if it can, whose to say the damage hasn’t already been done? “Concerns have been raised as to the impact of the contamination on groundwater supplies and air quality as well as effects on the local economy and property values,” says Rick Harmon, a writer with Current.com.

Harmon recently traveled to his hometown near Kingston and shot video of the spill site. “I made this video which falls short of showing truly how bad things are even now, almost a year later.”

Watch Harmon’s video:

People who live near the spill are also concerned. Coal ash contains dangerous toxins such as arsenic, lead, chromium, manganese and barium, which have been linked to serious health concerns such as cancer, liver damage and neurological complications. Many residents have reported heightened anxiety and respiratory problems since the spill. A few – including a toddler – have tested positive for heavy metals in their bloodstream.

Harmon tells us about others in the area – Crystal Hamby, who no longer lets her children play outside because she worries about their health; Joanie Smith, whose horse-riding business is suffering because parents don’t want their children on the land; Jot Raymond, who says no one wants to buy the houses he developed in the area.

TVA missed warning sites that the dams could rupture at any time, allowing the spill to occur and change lives forever. “It created an alien-looking landscape that resembles no recent natural disaster,” Harmon says. And even the Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen says the effects may be more dangerous than we realize. “It’s that uncertainty – fear of the unknown – that’s generating so much concern here,” Harmon says.