Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pebble Mine Watch: Appalachian Voices' Canoe Trip Through Ground Zero Of The Kingston, Tennessee Coal Slurry Dam Breach

Since I see little evidence that the major Alaska media are inclined to keep Alaskans informed as to the progress of the recovery of the Kingston, Tennessee area from the recent breach of the earthen dam containing coal slurry and the subsequent inundation of the adjoining countryside with 1.1 billion gallons of the waste, I will continue to identify and post useful bits of information here (the Anchorage Daily News has a Pebble Mine blog).

The Nashville Scene blog posted a YouTube video (dated Dec. 30) of a canoe trip by Appalachian Voices through ground zero of the spill area. They took water samples, and intend to publicize the results when obtained. Towards the end of the video, you will see TVA cops chase them down and give them a citation, even though they remained in the river at all times and did not trespass on private property. What's TVA trying to hide?

Appalachian Voices describes the site as looking eerily similar to Alaska shores following the Exxon Valdez spill--dead fish, blackened water thick like espresso, and five-foot "ashburgs" floating about. The group also found evidence that TVA was doing more to protect its own plant from pollution than halting the contamination for spreading down river.

In other news about the recovery, WNDU reports that Jack Spadaro, a retired mining engineer who investigated a 1972 coal waste dam break that killed 125 people in West Virginia, contends small leaks years earlier were advance warnings of the coal ash pond collapse that flooded a Tennessee neighborhood. Spadaro also says states have done a poor job monitoring huge ponds of coal ash.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel reports that five local residents will be testifying before a Congressional committee on January 8th. This source also contains links to numerous source documents about the spill.

According to a story just published by the Anchorage Daily News, it looks like there's a chance that TVA ratepayers (customers) could get stuck with paying TVA's cleanup costs. This means the costs would be added to their bills.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quotes Arkansas officials as saying such a disaster could not happen in their state. The reason: They use in-ground ponds rather than above-ground ponds. This is a modification the Pebble Partnership should consider to make the Pebble Mine less hazardous. Teresa Marks of the Arkansas Department of Environment Quality was quoted as saying, "It sounds like a worst-case scenario, for them, a perfect storm. The pond was huge and on a hillside and there are wells and a waterway nearby. Once it ruptured, gravity pulled the sludge down", in describing the Tennessee disaster.

Other useful websites from the area to monitor include the UnitedMountainDefense website and the DirtyCoalTVA blog. Residents in the Pebble Mine-affected area of Southwest Alaska should consider bookmarking and monitoring these two sites.

The future of the Pebble Mine hinges directly on how well the TVA helps the Kingston, Tennessee area recover from the disaster. If the TVA takes full responsibility and develops an orderly, systemic approach to recovery that provides victims with fair and timely compensation, then the Pebble Mine has a chance to be built. But if the TVA acts like FEMA did after Hurricane Katrina, then the Pebble Mine will not - and probably should not - be built.

The Pebble Partnership website presents the case for the Pebble Mine, while the Renewable Resources Coalition is the leading website presenting the case against the mine. It is the opinion of the RRC that there is no safe way to build the mine, and so they are absolutely opposed to it.

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