26 December 2008

dirty, filthy coal

Hopefully you didn't get any in your stocking this year, because now more than ever, coal is a symbol of greed, filth, and general naughtiness.

A few days before Christmas, a blanket of coal ash sludge fell on a Tennessee town when a coal dam broke, burying residents and releasing toxins into the Emory River. It's been estimated that the amount of ash that flooded the area would be enough to cover D.C.'s National Mall in a toxic blanket 4 to 6 feet deep. Or as Tom Yulsman (Co-director, Center for Environmental Journalism, University of Colorado, Boulder) put it:

The spill covers 400 acres — enough to blanket the Mall from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, with enough left over to spill out onto 100 acres of D.C.’s side streets. It’s also important to note that this material is not just mud. In addition to toxic heavy metals, the ash left over from burning coal (which is what is in the sludge) may also contain radioactive substances.
[CE Journal via iLoveMountains]Blogger: supereco - Edit Post "dirty, filthy coal"

UPDATE: The damage is greater than once estimated. From the New York Times:

Officials at the authority initially said that about 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had spilled when the earthen retaining wall of an ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant, about 40 miles west of Knoxville, gave way on Monday. But on Thursday they released the results of an aerial survey that showed the actual amount was 5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep.

The amount now said to have been spilled is larger than the amount the authority initially said was in the pond, 2.6 million cubic yards.

See what happened

News coverage

Watch CBS Videos Online

Raw footage

[DeSmogBlog via YouTube]

Learn more
Read about the toxic coal ash avalanche
Read about Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining (and here)

Do something!
Tell Obama to end mountaintop removal in his first 100 days

Related organizations
Mountain Justice
Appalachian Voices