Tr-Ash talk: Mercury In the showerhead
A Tennessee couple fights coal ash dump.
Fri, Apr 22 2011 at 3:00 PM
Photo: Video still
This opinion piece was written for Earthjustice and is reprinted here with permission.
Coal ash strikes again.
In this video by Sam Despeaux and Carly Calhoun titled “TVA At the Crossroads” (also check out “American Nightmare”), Lynn and Jean Gibson speak about living near a coal ash dump in Benton County, Tenn. The area is some four hours from the site of the December 2008 TVA spill/disaster in Harriman, but it’s a testament to just how much of Tennessee has become a dumping ground for coal ash. The coal ash landfill in question is from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s New Johnsonville plant. And while the U.S. EPA is taking its time considering regulating coal ash as a hazardous waste, TVA is considering opening up more coal plants and coal ash landfills to host the coal combustion byproduct. This is not good.
The video is a first-hand look at what happens when coal ash leaks into groundwater. Jean, who ironically used to work for TVA, started breaking out into angry welts—right after taking a shower. Since she worked around coal ash she knew just how harmful it is to people. Coal ash contains dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and selenium which (as indicated in the Gibson’s case) can leach into groundwater.
The welts continued after the showers so she decided to have the water tested. The results were alarming: six times the acceptable amount of mercury was in the water. This isn’t surprising given that coal ash is dumped just 200 yards behind the Gibson’s home.
“If they continue to run the plant and continue to create the coal ash then it’s going to have to be dumped on somebody somewhere in the state of Tennessee,” said Jean.
Another resident, Kaye Kiker, said the community that lives near the landfill has high rates of asthma, cancer and lung problems. “What is the cost to local people to host such a facility?” she asks.
Might want to ask the EPA that very same question. Perhaps that would hasten the process of getting coal ash regulated as the hazardous waste it is.