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by Matthew Reitman

Monday December 22, a tragedy 40 times bigger than the Valdez Oil spill occurred outside of Kingston, TN. Residences living near the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston coal plant were flooded with approximately 500 million gallons of nasty black coal waste. It covered 400 acres of land and flooded into tributaries of the Tennessee River which is the water supply for Chattanooga TN and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

The coal ash, slurry or sludge is a byproduct left over after TVA burns their coal and it contains mercury and dangerous heavy metals like lead and arsenic, among many other potentially toxic and radioactive contaminates. Materials found naturally in coal are concentrated in the ash and more toxic than they start.

TVA says that the area is not toxic and that preliminary water test show that the drinking water at the nearby water treatment facility meets standards. The problem is that many of the families in the impacted area do not have access to this safe drinking water because their water is being pumped from a spring located in the flooded area or they depend on well water.

TVA is advising families to boil water however they are not informing anyone about the reasons for needing to boil the water or sharing any chemicals that may be present in their water. Member of a the nonprofit United Mountain Defense have been going door to door delivering bottled water and passing out information about the chemicals that may be present in impacted drinking water and we met one man who had been vomiting for 12 hours after drinking coffee made from his well water.

Many people in the area are frustrated they had not received detailed information from TVA and have gone days without electricity, gas heat, or clean water. Some people were given motel rooms by TVA while others living on the same street have been without heat for several days in 27° weather.

Many residences say that they are not surprised by the flood because TVA has been fixing leaks in the retention wall for years and one person said this wall had been leaking for months before it broke. For more information please visit or call 865-689-2778.

See original news item:, Dec-25-2008  
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  Running Out of Water; and Running for Water (Jul-28-2008)

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