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Tennessee Spill Heading for Kentucky?

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December 29, 2008

Frankfort, KY – Assessment of toxics from the recent coal ash pond spill in Harriman, Tenn., is still underway, with the state now saying two contaminants have entered some water supplies. Millions of tons of coal ash sludge destroyed up to 15 homes near Knoxville and sent a slurry into the Tennessee River system. An emergency town meeting in Knoxville Sunday night drew folks from as far away as Alabama and Kentucky, who are concerned that the sludge spilled into the Tennessee River is headed their way.

Matt Landon is with United Mountain Defense, one of several groups going door-to-door to check on people immediately affected and warn them about the ash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it contains mercury, arsenic, lead and toxins that can cause cancer. He says millions of people living downstream eventually could be affected.

"There have been reports of the ash piling up on top of the water that's going down in the Tennessee River –- it's going all the way to the Mississippi River."

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) owns the coal plant where the ash was stored. TVA officials have issued an apology for the spill, along with promises to make everything right for those who lost their homes. Rock fill has been placed in river tributaries to try to stop the movement of the sludge.

Landon says this spill unveils one of the "dirty little secrets" about coal -- one that he says proves coal can never be a "clean" energy source.

"Everybody thinks that if you just cap the emissions, you can burn coal cleanly. But you're still going to have the leftover burnt stuff, no matter how the smokestack pollution is controlled."

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - KY