Press Release: Latest TVA Ash Spill Site in Alabama Contains Even More Toxic Metals than Harriman, Tennessee Spill Site from December

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) apparently has reported a new spill at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northeast Alabama. According to TVA’s own data, the Widows Creek plant disposed of even more toxic metals in its coal ash ponds than the TVA Kingston plant, which was the site of a widely publicized pre-Christmas coal ash spill.
Jan 9, 2009

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EIP:  LATEST TVA ASH SPILL SITE IN ALABAMA CONTAINS EVEN MORE TOXIC METALS THAN HARRIMAN, TENNESEE SPILL SITE FROM DECEMBER

WASHINGTON, D.C.//January 9, 2009//The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) apparently has reported a new spill at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northeast Alabama.  According to TVA’s own data, the Widows Creek plant disposed of even more toxic metals in its coal ash ponds than the TVA Kingston plant, which was the site of a widely publicized pre-Christmas coal ash spill.

A comparison of Kingston and Widows Creek toxic metal pollution — based on industry reports to the USEPA’s Toxics Release Inventory — can be found in a detailed analysis released by the Environmental Integrity Project on January 7, 2009.  The full EIP report is available online at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/A new chart focusing specifically on the Kingston and Widows Creek pollution data is available online.

The EIP’s report from earlier this week warned that nearly 100 largely unregulated “wet dumps” across the United States comparable to the TVA’s  breached site in Harriman, Tennessee for the storage of toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants have a place on one or more of the “worst site” lists for six toxic metals, including arsenic and lead.

The Tennessee TVA site was on the “worst site” list for five of the six toxic metals.  The site of today’s spill — TVA Widows Creek Fossil Plant, Jackson, AL — was one of five toxic coal pollution storage sites that showed up on all six of the six worst-site lists for toxic metals.  The other four sites are:  Duke Energy Gibson Generating Station, Gibson, IN; Georgia Power Scherer Steam Electric Generating Plant, Juliette, GA; Kentucky Utilities Co Ghent Station, Ghent, KY.; and Louisville Gas & Electric Co. & Mill Creek Station, Louisville, KY.

Using industry-reported data collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Reporting Inventory (TRI) data system for 2000-2006 (the latter being the most recent year for which complete data is available),  EIP looked at the presence of arsenic, chromium, lead, nickel, selenium and thallium in the waste at Tennessee-style pollution dumping sites across the nation.  The EPA has determined that these “surface impoundment” ponds (also known as “wet dumps”) are the most likely storage sites to leak pollution into groundwater and surface water, even without a catastrophic failure such as the one before Christmas at the TVA’s Kingston Steam Plant coal ash retention pond, which burst and covered the nearby area with more than a billion gallons of toxic-laden sludge.

The EIP analysis shows that a total of 13 states were found to have at least three coal-fired power plant “surface impoundment” dumping sites on the six 50-worst toxic chemical lists:  Indiana, 11 dumps; Ohio, eight dumps; Kentucky, seven dumps; Alabama, seven dumps; Georgia, six dumps; North Carolina, six dumps; West Virginia, four dumps; Tennessee, four dumps; Illinois, three dumps; Michigan, three dumps; Pennsylvania, three dumps; Florida, three dumps; and Wyoming, three dumps.

Eric Schaeffer, director, Environmental Integrity Project, said:  “The Tennessee eco-disaster and now the Alabama coal spill have cast a spotlight on what is a very serious national problem – the existence of under-regulated toxic pollution coal dump sites near coal-fired power plants that pose a serious threat to drinking water supplies, rivers and streams.    Our analysis confirms that this problem is truly national in scope and that Tennessee may end up only being a warning sign of much more trouble to come.   In addition to so-called “surface impoundments” in ponds, we need to be concerned about inadequate oversight and monitoring of land-based disposal and other “storage” of these toxic wastes.  We can no longer afford to ignore this problem and we certainly can’t be content to just sit around and wait for the next Tennessee-style disaster to happen.”

The copy of the full EIP report is available online at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/.

ABOUT EIP

The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws.  EIP has three goals:  1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.

CONTACT:   Leslie Anderson, (703) 276-3256, or landerson@hastingsgroup.com.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  A streaming audio replay of the January 7, 2009 news event is available on the Web at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org/.