Tennessee “coal spill” poses cancer risk 900 times higher than “acceptable”

activism, environment No Comments »

coalspillThankfully the press has finally gotten a whiff of the coal ash spill that recently devastated Kingston, Tennessee, 40 miles east of Knoxville. Major news outlets are now covering the story, reporting that the amount toxic sludge is now estimated to be over one billion gallons.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which runs the coal plant has performed preliminary testing of the nearby water supply and so far tests have come back negative.

In August 2007 the EPA released a draft study detailing the human and ecological risks from coal combustion wastes.

As reported by Earthjustice at the time…

By examining 181 “coal combustion waste,” or coal ash disposal sites throughout the country, the report estimates risks to health and the environment from coal ash disposal. The report found that unlined coal ash waste ponds pose a cancer risk 900 times above what is defined as ‘acceptable.’ The report also finds that coal ash disposal sites release toxic chemicals and metals such as arsenic, lead, boron, selenium, cadmium, thallium, and other pollutants at levels that pose risks to human health and the environment.


“For decades, coal ash has been disposed in unlined landfills and waste ponds, contaminating the water throughout the U.S.,” said Jeff Stant of Clean Air Task Force. “EPA promised in 2000 to require safeguards for coal ash disposal, yet this long-awaited action demonstrates that they are completely out of touch with what’s happening around these sites. Communities near coal plants deserve far better.”

Considering who has been in charge of Washington for the past 8 years, it’s not surprising that the federal government does not mandate any of the safeguards recommended in the report to reduce the risk and danger of coal ash spills.

And nor do I mandate drinking the water in Kingston, Tennessee either. Just ask the dead fish.

Happy Holidays!

announcements 3 Comments »


As 2008 draws to a close, I look forward to putting this tumultuous year behind us. But it certainly had its moments. The one I will always remember the most is being surrounded by my family and friends as I slipped a ring on my partner’s finger and said I do.

I know for many it has been a tough year, but I am hopeful that the future will be better and brighter for all of us.

So to everyone I would like to wish a safe and happy holiday season, and much love to my family and friends, who make my life so much richer by simply being in it.

Lovely image by Masaki Hoshino.

Environmental disaster in Tennessee rivals largest oil spills

environment, video 2 Comments »

coalIn one of the largest environmental disasters in years, a retaining wall in eastern Tennessee failed yesterday releasing 500 million gallons of water mixed with fly ash (the material left over from the combustion of coal), covering up to 400 acres up to 6 feet deep, flowing into the tributaries of the Tennessee river, and ultimately the Chattanooga water supply.

Fly or coal ash contains a number of toxic substances including mercury, arsenic and lead, causing a whole host of health issues including cancer and various neurological problems.

To give a sense of scale, the Exxon Valdez poured 11 million gallons into the ocean off the coast of Alaska in 1989, and the largest spill on record, the Gulf War oil spill in 1991, poured between 250-450 million gallons into the Persian Gulf.

A video of the aftermath below.

For such an extraordinary event, there has been little or no national press coverage, and only minimal coverage in local newspapers and blogs. It appears the media would prefer to cover Obama’s vacation in Hawaii or the ongoing Illinois governor’s scandal. I guess environmental disasters just aren’t sexy enough. Or about as sexy as years of coal de-regulation that may have contributed to this event.

Light up the Night in San Francisco for marriage equality

activism, lgbt, video 1 Comment »

If you weren’t able to join one of the Light up Night for Marriage Equality vigils yesterday evening, please enjoy the video clip below from the event in San Francisco. After watching the video we were very sad to have missed it.

Of all things we can take away from the events of the past few months, and perhaps the most important, is that we can no longer remain invisible. It is easy to ignore, what you cannot see. And we must be seen and heard, to change minds, whether it’s in Washington, or our own neighborhoods.