Another TVA Dam Fails

[Update: TVA is responsible for yet a third release of toxic sludge from an ash pond since December 23–see comments for more information]

A second TVA dam holding back coal-ash sludge has failed, this time in Northern Alabama. 

From Alabama Dam Failure

From Alabama Dam Failure

Officials are downplaying the event by calling it a gypsum leak, but the truth is, the same toxic concoction of arsenic, uranium, selinium, and 100+ chemicals is in the water supply and heading toward a faucet near you (well, someone).

This comes just weeks after the disaster  in Harriman, Tennessee. Bureaucrats and TVA officials have responded similarly, promising “reviews” and “stricter regulation.” We hear the same refrain after every avoidable tragedy.

Let’s not let them get by with it this time. We must demand an end to these ponds. We must demand an end to the burning of coal. If that means we go without electricity, then so be it. But in actuality, it means a full-scale governmental effort to develop renewable energy resources, whether such a project would be good for business or not.

So contact your Congressmen today.  And if there are plans to build a coal-fired power plant near you, please take heed. You can check the environmental resources on this blog’s homepage to help you fight back.

Here is a pertinent letter to the editor written by Judy Bonds, a coal-field community member and anti-mtr activist, regarding ash-ponds.

Jan.7, 2009
The Charleston Gazette
Readers Forum
Ban, don’t regulate, coal waste dams
My heart and prayers go out to the people living below the TVA toxic coal waste sludge dam in Tennessee. Their lives, water and property are contaminated. Congressman Rahall wants to “regulate” these dams. These dams should be outlawed and the industry be forced to switch to the dry press method.
All the regulations and laws in the world do not help if they are not enforced. The very agency that Rahall oversees and plans to “regulate” coal mining (Office of Surface Mining) refuses to enforce laws written almost 30 years ago. We residents in Appalachia are being blasted and poisoned by coal companies because the law is ignored. We citizens have complained many times to deaf ears. We are ignored for the profits of the coal barons.
My father often told me that “Every law ever written about coal was written in our blood” and that is still true today. To the good people of Tennessee and all communities suffering, I say please fight for abolishment of these dams. I wonder which community will be next.
Julia Bonds
Rock Creek

Members of United Mountain Defense are headed to Alabama to collect water samples and take photographs. I will post updates in the comment section.


7 Responses to “Another TVA Dam Fails”

  1. This is yet a THIRD release of toxic sludge by TVA since December 23. This is not an article about the Harriman or Alabama failures.

    January 9, 2009

    TVA lets sludge into Ocoee River

    By Anne Paine

    TVA has released muddy sludge once again, this time on the Ocoee River in East Tennessee.

    Efforts to repair one of a series of dams on the river released sediment into the rocky channel over the weekend, agency spokeswoman Barbara Martocci confirmed Thursday. The U.S. Forest Service discovered the problem Sunday.

    Two days later, a section of the Ocoee River Gorge — a world-renowned location for whitewater sports and site of Olympic competition during the 1996 Atlanta games — was about half-filled with black, foul-smelling muck, said Tisha Calabrese-Benton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environment and Conservation.

    “In addition, Forest Service employees were walking the stream bank picking up what dead fish they could find,” she said Thursday in an e-mail. “No live fish were seen.”

    Martocci said the TVA’s repairs to the dam required sluicing water downstream to lower water for workers’ safety.

    “We did that Saturday and Sunday, and it pulled sediment through the sluice gate down the river,” she said.

    “It’s just what’s on the river bottom. It’s the same thing that’s on any river bottom.”

    TVA officials were already at work trying to clean up a massive spill of coal ash sludge at its Kingston power plant near Harriman, Tenn., about 60 miles north of the Ocoee location.

    TVA had sought no permits and hadn’t coordinated with the state environment department about its special operation at the dam, and had not coordinated with Tennessee State Parks or the U.S. Forest Service, Calabrese-Benton said.

    Martocci said she had no information about that.

    Calabrese-Benton said the sediment had built up behind the dam over decades after flowing down from the Copper Basin, an area in the southeast corner of Tennessee where mining and pollution wiped out vegetation generations ago.

    An extensive effort has taken place over many years to clean the site and the Ocoee River.

    The spill killed fish and washed them downstream or killed and buried them, so a count of the numbers dead was not possible, Calabrese-Benton said.
    The fish population, largely absent for 100 years, had been starting to flourish in this part of the Ocoee, according to a U.S. Forest Service survey this past summer.

    Bill Mitchum of the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association said:
    “It’s inexcusable. If that had happened during the summer when the river was full of people that could have been a real disaster.”

  2. Update:
    From Chris Irwin
    I just got off the phone with John Wathan of the Alabama riverkeepers–he just flew over the spill there and says that its larger than TVA is saying.

    He also says its very clear in the air that its in the Tennessee River as well.

    He said he did think Gypsum floated–and it looks exactly like what he saw down the emory and clinch.

    He also said that a ton of surface erosion obviously got washed off the Harriman spill site from his flyover he did earlier today here. He says its completely obvious from the air that TVA has no control at all from all the surface erosion on the ash from all the rain.

    Back to the site in Alabama–this one was inspected by TVA and called “safe”.

    Kilgore told the senate yesterday that it TVA had inspected all of their ash dams and they were “safe”.

    John said it looked like the ash went out the bottom of the alabama dam. He said there was a pit in the circle of ash like it went out from below.

    He thought maybe they had old drain pipes had blown out.

    But I just spoke to a scientist who told me that there is a sinkhole underneath the pit.




    We need signs and people protesting–if just for an hour–in front of the TVA offices in these 4 cities where TVA has offices. In terms of impact 1 person holding a sign with a picture has as much impact as 25 would two months ago. Person for person these next two weeks are the time for protest against TVA at these headquarters.

    Please help us force TVA to do whats right. If you live in any of these cities–or can come visit for a day just a little effort can effect the national debate on coal. Its rare that chances like these arise.

    Dress up as a coal stack and kick the hell out of someone in a river costume. Play an accordian while a smokestack dances. Get in a bed dressed as King Coal and a local politician!

    If you can help email me a

    We have no energy but we can help you with info and pics for demos. We need a little more energy to carry this thing over the top. If you live an any of these towns, if you know anyone who lives in any of these towns–if your willing to drive–its at this moment where a few simple acts can effect the national debate.

    Corporate Headquarters
    Tennessee Valley Authority
    400 W. Summit Hill Dr.
    Knoxville, TN 37902-1499
    Note: This operator can connect you to any TVA facility.
    Tennessee Valley Authority
    1101 Market St.
    Chattanooga, TN 37402-2801
    Tennessee Valley Authority
    P.O. Box 292409
    Nashville, TN 37229-2409
    Muscle Shoals
    TVA Reservation
    P.O. Box 1010
    Muscle Shoals, AL 35662-1010

  4. I just got off the phone with our on the ground person at Widow Creek–they now have a community member who lives right next to the creek who is letting them use his land and wants to help in any way–thought that was great news.

    They are back out in it. James told me last night that he had to literally get naked–wade out in the creek up to his chest last night–to get his sample.

    Yes I know this is not probably the wise way to do this–but I had to admire his dedication.

    We also have some of our folks from Chattanooga down there–they have been gathering samples, video and picture from the ground for two days now. They will be back in town tonight and will began posting video.

    Philosophically I told John that all our data, pics, samples and stuff are at his disposal–he lives in Alabama and its to long of a hall for us. We are going to overnight him video from the ground overnight as soon as we get it so he can splice youtube videos together.

    We have samples coming in–and need guidance as to what to do with them. John mentioned taking them to the Knoxville lab we used for our other test–but that needs to be worked out cause of cost.

    James said TVA keeps flying a helicopter over with press to show them what a great job they are doing. He says on the ground its much worse than TVA is portraying.

    He is gathering more samples–chain of custody, fixative, on ice–etc. We need to figure out monday whether to drop them off to our lab in Knoxville or not for testing.

    thats it!

    Chris Irwin
    United Mountain Defense

  5. […] A Mountain Journey « Another TVA Dam Fails […]

  6. why God chose human beings above all other species of his creation as stewards of this earth is far beyond my comprehension, even the most destructive of insects has done far less to harm our universe and our environment than the devestation caused by man.

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