Nearly 22 million tons of coal ash have spilled into tributaries of the Tennessee River and onto hundreds of surrounding acres. A retention wall for a coal ash storage pond failed early Monday morning, sending the toxic sludge into the community around the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil coal-fired power plant near Knoxville. Coal ash is the waste leftover from burning coal for fuel. And Attorney and coal ash expert Lisa Evans of the law firm Earth Justice says there’s a human health risk now.
“This is an extremely dangerous proposition because this material can contain all these heavy metals, and it not only can present a direct contact threat, it, as I understand it, has also gone into a river that supplies drinking water to communities,” says Evans.
Evans says drinking water facilities test for metals, but some are harder to detect. In a statement on its Web site, the TVA says it will continue to sample water downstream to monitor for any harmful effects. The Authority also says it is putting up several residents whose homes were flooded, one having been knocked off its foundation.