Coal Ash Dumped on the Disadvantaged
In December, a coal slurry impoundment owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) gushed 50 times more toxic waste than the Exxon Valdez in a well publicized and inevitable disaster that unjustly ruined many homes and downstream ecosystems. So how to describe what’s happening to the sludge currently being dredged from waterways and swimming pools? More injustice, as reported today by The Institute for Southern Studies:
“TVA is sending the spilled coal ash waste from Tennessee to landfills in Taylor County, Ga. and Perry County, Ala. The choice of these communities for disposal of the waste raises environmental justice concerns, since almost 41% of Taylor County’s population is African-American and more than 24% of its residents live in poverty, while Alabama’s Perry County is 69% African-American with more than 32% of its population in poverty, according to the latest census data. Residents had no voice in the decision-making process, given that there was no opportunity for public comment.”
The piece further reports that the waste was rejected by another state because it is too contaminated. This from the coal-mine pocked state of Pennsylvania! While the landfills in question are at least built with liners and are not just holes in the ground, but given that all landfills leak, it’s inevitable that the arsenic, lead, and other nast in the ash will find its way into the groundwater where it will infiltrate wells and surface water sources.
Ah, coal, so clean it’s, um, clean.
EPA top cop Lisa Jackson, who last week said, “Environmental justice is not an issue we can afford to relegate to the margins; we need to factor it into every decision,” should weigh in on this particular decision to dump, and soon.