For Immediate Release: January 1, 2009
The Largest Environmental Disaster in U.S. History
It has been less than a month since the massive coal waste disaster in Kingston Tennessee from a failed levee that held the ash in retaining ponds. TVA continues to call this a “spill”. What they will not say is that it is the largest environmental disaster in U. S. history. There are a few things that both amaze and anger me at the same time. Let me first say that I am not associated with any environmental group. My concern is with this community. This community is being misled and lied to.
First, let me give you a few facts that are not being relayed to any of us. TVA told a Senate committee that this “spill” covered about 275 acres. Other estimates say 300 to 400 acres. If not for the hills and coves of the river, there was enough contamination to cover 3000 acres with a foot of sludge.
We are continually told that there is no danger to the public “at this time”. If that is the truth, then why is it that residence from the most affected areas now being evacuated and given places to live?
I was there the morning after this tragedy happened. I could not even have imagined what I was looking at. I was there again this morning to look at what TVA says is "cleaning it up". What I saw was a joke. First of all, the straw that they air-dropped only covered about 25% of the mess. And, in the cove that I visited, they are dredging the center of it to let a natural spring flow. I know this area as well as anyone. I have spent many hours fishing there. There are many springs that flow underground and come to surface in the coves when the water is at summer levels. Right now the area is covered up with 10 to 12 feet of mud, sludge, and trash. TVA does not plan on digging the coves out. So, these springs will eventually find a way to flow to the surface. Then they make their way to the river. Covering it up will never take away the contamination. Let me say that again. COVERING IT UP WILL NEVER TAKE AWAY THE CONTAMINATION!! When TVA tells us it isn't contaminated and will be cleaned up, they are severely misleading you. If you do the research you will find that arsenic cannot be changed or diluted. Its molecular structure always remains the same. It is in the water from this disaster. It will remain there until TVA cleans it out. In the Swan Pond area, the arsenic levels were extremely elevated. It is in the mud and trash. And the only way to remove the arsenic is to remove all, and I mean ALL, of the mud it is mixed in, even in the coves.
Smaller, but just as tragic levee breaks have happened in Kentucky , and Pennsylvania . The people that live in these areas are still trying to cope with it. Did TVA clean it up? No! they covered it up. In Kentucky there are coves that once had water in them that are now fields. The contamination is still there. In Pennsylvania , some homes have the dried sludge in the crawl spaces of their homes. So why should Roane County , Tennessee expect any different approach?
I listened to Mr. Kilgore tell this community that it was not a time that TVA could hold its head high, but he promised to make it right. Well, TVA and its officials should hide their heads because of the way they are planning to handle this. They are doing whatever will cost them the least. How about taking some of your unearned bonuses to help pay to clean this up right?
What I cannot understand is why our elected officials, both local state, and national, are staying quiet. The mayors of each town should have their city councils pass resolutions demanding that the clean-up be done right. Our State Representative and State Senator should be on the floor in Nashville demanding that TVA get it right. Our US Representatives and our US Senators should be on the floor in Washington demanding that Congress hold TVA accountable and make them clean it up, not just cover it up. Even the news media has gone silent. This cover up should have the media speaking loudly. It is not the time for silence. Even if you do not live in this area, it's time to show the entire nation what is really going on. There are retention ponds like the one that gave way here, all over the nation. You think it will not happen to your community? Maybe it will not. But the risk is there. So please, wake up. We need your voice in this area. And we need your voice all over the nation.
There is no regulation on how to store the ash from coal burning plants. The EPA has suggested on three occasions that this stuff is contaminated. But, for some reason, they changed their mind on each occasion. But you have to realize one fact. The coal companies contribute more money to candidates than even the oil companies do.
Now allow me to go back to this community. I have heard people say that this is the largest natural disaster of its kind in US history. I would like to correct that statement. It is the worst national disaster in our history. The levee was manmade. So, it cannot be a natural disaster.
This will affect the local economy in the months and years to come. Much of our economy is based on our rivers and lakes. I will mention just two events. During the Fourth of July weekend, people from all over the Southeast come here to let their families enjoy the water and watch our fireworks. They are some of the best in the US. Professional bass fishermen hold tournaments here. Are they still going to show up if they even think the rivers and lakes are contaminated? I wouldn't. I will be the first to say that my children and granddaughter will not even get close to this water as it is.
Mayor Beets, Mayor Miller, Mayor Mason, it's time to stop standing by the side of TVA officials and start standing up for the community. Representative Ferguson and State Senator Yeager, it's time to take charge and represent the people here. US Senators Alexander and Corker, Washington needs to make sure this is cleaned up right and that it never happens again. Governor Bredeson, this sludge is not safe as you said in public.
TVA can explain things in their terms that make it sound good. But, if you take them for their word, it helps to cover this disaster up. We as a community, a state, and a nation need to not only speak out, but shout out, enough is enough!
The sad thing is that TVA does not realize this is a time in which they could shine. They could dig this all out. Yes, it would take time and money. However, they could make this devastated area look even better than it did. They could remove the contamination and restore this area; make it even more beautiful than before. Then they could hold their heads high and be proud. But if they think the direction they are taking is something to be proud of, then they are not only trying to fool us, but themselves as well.
I am no reporter, journalist, environmentalist, or anyone that is “important”. I am no public speaker or professional writer. I am just a man who loves his community. I am a man who has many wonderful memories provided in the area that has been destroyed. And I am a man who would love to be able to have the opportunity to enjoy more memories. Please, do not allow this to be covered up. Please speak out. News media please help keep this alive. I am but one voice. But as long as I have a voice, I will keep it alive. And if just one paper prints this for others to read, it is one small step to fixing our community, and keeping it from happening to others. We have a long way to go, and a long and rough road to travel. But, the journey is easier when you have the company.
For more information please contact Rick Cantrell (865) 376-1040 or RECThe1@aol.com