"Every facility like this is supposed to have a spill
contingency plan to prevent this kind of disaster," said Rick Hind,
Greenpeace Legislative Director. "The authorities need to get to
the bottom of what went wrong and hold the responsible parties
Similar spills have resulted in felony charges, Hind noted.
According to The Tennessean, the plant's neighbors have
reported previous "baby blowouts" that caused less severe
Coal ash typically contains high concentrations of toxic
chemicals like mercury, cadmium, and other heavy metals. Following
the spill, local television and photographers captured large
numbers of dead fish washed up on the shores of the river and
images of the area covered in mud and ash; 12 homes had to be
evacuated. Excellent videos are available at the website of a local
NBC affiliate, WBIR (www.wbir.com).
The contaminated rivers put the water supply at risk for major
downstream cities like Chattanooga as well as millions of other
people in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
"This spill shows that coal can never be 'clean,'" said Kate
Smolski, Senior Legislative Coordinator for Greenpeace. "If the
Exxon Valdez was a symbol of pollution 20 years ago, the Tennessee
Coal Spill of 2008 is the symbol of it today."
Like Exxon Valdez, the spill could take years to clean up, and
some of the damage to the ecosystem could be irreparable. Smolski
added that these local impacts represent only a small fraction of
coal's negative impact.
"The really sad thing about this spill is that it's only a small
example of the damage coal causes," Smolski added. "Add in global
warming, tens of thousands of annual premature deaths from power
plant pollution, and hundreds of mountains leveled across
Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky and West Virginia, and that's the
real picture of coal."
"If we're going to prevent disasters like this, we've got to
complete the switch to truly clean energy like wind and solar power
as rapidly as possible," Smolski said. "We can't afford more coal
disasters and more dangerous global warming impacts."
Other contacts: Glenn Hurowitz, Greenpeace Media Director, 202-552-1828;
Interview Availability with Rick Hind, Greenpeace Legislative Director
VVPR info: WBIR videos of inundated houses, dead fish, landscape:
http://www.wbir.com || The Tennessean Coverage: http://www.tennessean.com/article/20081223/GREEN02/812230370/1001/RSS6001 || Greenpeace Report: “The True Cost of Coal”: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/true-cost-of-coal || Energy [R]evolution: The Transition to Clean Energy: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/energy-revolution-a-sustainab