Oops, I guess there IS arsenic in the water in Tennessee.
State and federal officials are now recommending that residents who drink well or spring water to switch over to bottled water after tests found high levels of arsenic. Up until now, the TVA has held to the line that water quality wasn't affected, claiming that "most of the fly ash consists of inert material. Potentially harmful contaminants are present in the ash in minute quantities." This despite the fact that those "potentially harmful contaminants" are deadly in "minute quantities". I would also question how the TVA defines "minute quantities". Now tests are showing dangerously high levels of aresenic in four wells in the area near the more than billion gallon spill.
This could be where things begin to slip through the TVA's fingers. They are already looking like a stereotypical corporate villain, going as far to claim in a report released over the weekend (PDF) that "the force of the water during the initial event stranded some fish out of the water and they subsequently died. That was not related to water quality." They've detained activists trying to document the disaster, use PR smooth language to describe the over billion gallons of toxic flood as "an event", made up of "mostly inert materials", and throw out the absurd statement that fish died after they were displaced out of the river by the "initial event" and not from water quality issues. We could see more bad news break over the coming days, weeks, months, and years that could properly frame this as one of the bigget environmental disasters in our nations history. At the very least it's a great reminder that there is no such thing as clean coal.
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