Sierra Club

Press Room:  For Immediate Release 
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet

January 9, 2009

Virginia Cramer, 804-225-9113 x 102

Second Coal Waste Spill at Tennessee Valley Authority Site

Washington, D.C.: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has confirmed a coal waste spill at its Widows Creek coal-fired plant in northeast Alabama. This is the second coal waste spill at a TVA facility in less than a month, following the tragic spill at the Kingston plant in Tennessee that contaminated water in the Emory and Clinch Rivers and more than 300 acres of nearby land, including dozens of homesites.

While full details on the Widows Creek spill are not yet available, it is known that some of the toxic waste has reached nearby Widows Creek.

"Even as residents in Roane County Tennessee are still trying to grasp the full impact of the Kingston disaster, communities in northeastern Alabama are now threatened with a new toxic coal waste spill," said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign. "While initial accounts indicate that this latest spill is smaller than the Tennessee disaster, we hope that TVA and EPA have learned from the Tennessee disaster and move quickly to protect residents."

John Wathen, an Alabama resident with Hurricane Creekkeeper was in Tennessee taking stock of the Kingston spill when he heard about today’s spill.
"If this don't stick a finger in the whole 'clean coal' myth, then I don't know what will," said Wathen.

Coal waste can contain a number of harmful substances including lead, mercury and arsenic. Once spilled the toxins from the waste can leak into soil and water, putting people who come in contact with the contamination at risk for numerous health problems. 

According to media reports, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management inspected all of the coal ash facilities in the state after the Kingston spill last week and pronounced them safe.

"Clearly current regulations are not adequate," continued Nilles. "We need the Environmental Protection Agency to start regulating coal ash before more communities are put at risk."

The Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign is working to ensure coal is mined responsibly, burned cleanly and does not contribute to global warming. Earlier this week the campaign filed suit with a coalition of local residents and environmental groups to ensure an adequate cleanup of the Kingston disaster and to make sure local residents are compensated.


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