Citizen Journalists Try To Keep TVA Accountable

I’m going to play pundit for a moment and talk about the TVA Sludge Spill.

Citizen journalists have kept this story from going away and I’m very impressed. One of the reasons I started blogging three years ago was Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know why it was so significant to me, but it was. I had seen over time Mainstream Media drop the ball (or at least I thought so) time and time again.

White House press briefings where no questions of value were asked, astronauts in diapers, nonstop coverage of the death of Anna Nicole Smith used to dominate the news just a couple of years ago.

And it’s changed. It’s not perfect but it has evolved somehow and I think a lot of it has to do with the voices of citizen journalists. Folks like Cathy.

If the area is safe, why aren’t people allowed to take photographs? Why are they refusing to allow scientific experts to sample and test the water? If the area is too dangerous for anyone except HazMat cleanup crews, why isn’t the mess being cleaned up with any kind of expediency? What damage can an ecoterrorist do to a toxic waste spill? Are they afraid someone might, I don’t know, clean it up?

Or this from S-Town Mike on TVA (Mike has been busting the joint apart):

It sounds more like a shadow state, and I keep seeing these videos recorded over the past weekend of Kingston law enforcement telling activists that they cannot go on the Emory or Clinch Rivers because TVA owns them. That seems like an odd arrangement in a republican democracy. Does the U.S. Coast Guard patrolling those rivers serve at the pleasure of the TVA CEO?

Finally, Southern Beale:

Currently “officials” are saying the municipal water supply is safe. If it were me, I wouldn’t be using it for anything other than flushing the toilet.

TVA must be held accountable. And there are people out there holding their feet to the fire.

I’m encouraged that this isn’t been swept under the rug. Voices are being heard but from the pictures I’ve seen at Harriman, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is a mess. TVA says they are going to clean it up. They shouldn’t even have to assure that, they should just do it.

Words are nice but actions are so much better.

I will end this Teal Deer post with this from Popular Mechanics on how toxic this sludge is in a worst case scenario:

Coal fly ash is nasty stuff. According an Environmental Protection Agency report, coal plants produce 160 pounds of fly ash for ever ton of coal that they burn. This ash contains traces of heavy metals like arsenic and uranium, and other toxic chemicals, like mercury. The mean mercury level, according to the EPA is 0.33 parts per million, more than the other remnants of coal burning such as bottom ash or boiler slag. At 0.33 parts per million, a billion-gallon ash spill would contain 330 gallons of mercury. However, because the plants mix the ash with water and make it into a sludgy paste before sending it to storage ponds, that number would be smaller.

Mercury exposure is especially dangerous for developing babies, who are susceptible to neurological damage if their mothers have a buildup of mercury in their bloodstream, most often caused by eating seafood with elevated mercury levels. Though these small amounts of mercury exposure are less dangerous for adults, continued exposure to mercury can lead to health problems such as chronic tremors, and a variety of mood disorders. Besides the mercury, however, trace amounts of arsenic, uranium, nickel, cadmium and toxic chemicals makes this a nasty substance to get in the waterways—one that is difficult to test for and remove.

6 comments for “Citizen Journalists Try To Keep TVA Accountable

  1. December 30, 2008 at 6:46 am

    Horror at the whole thing aside, the citizen journalism has been spectacular and reassuring somehow. People shouldn’t have to endure this sort of thing in the first place but it is important that when they do, they stand up to it, document it, ask questions, push back, understand their civil rights, and share what they’ve documented.

    I often wonder about the things that have been swept under the rug because it wasn’t always this easy (twitter, youtube, blogs, etc.) to get the word out.

  2. penny
    December 30, 2008 at 7:45 am

    Check out a residents blog on what life is like living in Swan Pond since the TVA disaster.

  3. newscoma
    December 30, 2008 at 8:37 am

    I linked to that earlier in the week. I thought it amazing.

  4. chemguy1
    December 30, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Given the abominable way in which the EPA has bowed to the will of President Bush in allowing more and more lax regulations on such an incredibly toxic waste product as fly ash; given that organizations such as the TVA will always take every advantage of such loose regulations and hide behind the weak and ethically unsupportable excuse of “complying with all current regulations”, whether morally acceptable or not; and given that the bottom line in both government and business is money, and nothing else, I can only hope that even now, armies of lawyers are lining up to sue for tremendous sums both the EPA and the TVA for allowing this tragic, but all too predictable situation to develop. Only when the economic penalties of such irresponsible behavior are severe and certain will corporate America and its government puppets fulfill what should be their moral obligations. I say “should be” because to those without any ethics except what increases their wealth, there are no morals, no responsibility to the public, and no respect of the natural world. There is only profit, and only by the threat of removing that profit can change be forced upon them.

  5. penny
    December 30, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    ok, the blog addy for life on swan pond didn’t work right, so here it is:

    thanks!!!!! it’s an insiders view….

  6. December 30, 2008 at 10:22 pm

    Though it appears that I’m still the only one, unfortunately, to publicly call for Kilgore’s resignation, yes. The bloggers in TN have done a fine job of shattering the cover up attempt and forcing the MSM to look our way.
    KnoxViews especially.

    See? All it takes is for the injustice to hit close to home and even the Randy Neal’s of the world get aggressive.

    Everybody pulled together real well and I too am proud of the effort.

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