Environmental disaster in Tennessee rivals largest oil spills

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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.

Post by ILO on 12/23/08 at 3:31 pm