Activists on the Ground at Tennessee Coal Ash Spill Disaster

Written by Scott Parkin

Topics: Coal

share this story
facebook twitter email stumble upon
Get Energy Alerts

While many of us are spending the holidays with our friends and families, activists from United Mountain Defense and Mountain Justice are on the ground in eastern Tennessee providing relief to the coal ash disaster.


This is a monumental and unprecedented environmental catastrophe. The TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) disaster is now estimated at 5.3 million cubic yards of coal ash, or almost twice as large as the 2.8 million cubic yards generated by the World Trade Center collapse.

You can see comphrehensive aerial footage here.

Dave Cooper, a longtime anti-Mountaintop Removal activist in the Huffington Post wrote:

“This spill is affecting two tributaries of the Tennessee River. The Tennessee is a major river system and a drinking water source for millions of people downstream in Chattanooga, plus Alabama, west Tennessee and Kentucky. Coal ash is the waste material captured after the coal is burned for electricity – burning coal generates about half of America’s electricity and according to Rolling Stone Contributing Editor Jeff Goodell, there is three times as much coal ash as municipal solid waste generated in America every year. ( “Big Coal,” Jeff Goodell page 123). About 130 million tons of coal ash and power plant scrubber sludge are generated annually.”

“Coal ash contains heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, and lead. An article in Scientific American magazine dated Dec 13, 2007 states that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste. “

Cooper and Matt Landon, an organizer with United Mountain Defense, were detained by police after TVA officials saw them taking pictures of the disaster.

In 2000, the poster child of mountaintop removal, Massey Energy, dumped 300 million gallons of coal waste into streams in eastern Kentuckey and the TVA successfully kept the media from exposing the story by sealing off the area for “public safety” reasons, but now in the age of bloggers, independent media and online video that has been impossible. Out of nowhere, the New York Times and CNN reported on the spill after bloggers and independent media saturated the internet with images and stories from the disaster.

United Mountain Defense has set up an emergency convergence space in Kingston, Tn. They need support for various water testing materials, clean water, copies and communications. To support United Mountain Defense with donations and other support, go here.

To view an ongoing Twitter feed of disaster reports go here.

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.