I've blogged on the recent coal ash flood around a TVA power plant. No body died and a few homes got wrecked from waste after decades of cheap coal-fired electricity. So what's the big deal? Besides it was in Tennessee which is not your big media center or power center.
Well, one part of the BIG DEAL--there are at least thirteen states in this nation with similar ash heaps. To make this even more of an environmental roulette game: there are estimated to be 1300 of these ash piles scattered about the U.S. Nobody's really watching so there may be many more. In Tennessee the coal ash heaps are "regulated" under the state laws for landfills. Never mind that landfills and ash heaps are very different things as we've just seen. Despite all the nasty crud we put into landfills not one has ever climbed out of its hole, run downhill and knocked over homes. Mostly because of gravity. What part of gravity do the ash heap heapers and keepers not understand do you suppose? Did we stop teaching gravity in schools for some reason?
WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?
This runaway ash heap is not even just the second time in America. Over thirty years ago a heap ran downhill in coal-rich West Virginia. Over 100 humans died. Nobody counted the other dead animals and plants. So we should take this as just one in a string of warnings that we can only foul up our nest for so long without the problems we store up coming down upon us. The planet earth is pretty much a closed system and none of the crud we are creating ever completely goes away.
ONE POSSIBLE ASH HEAP SOLUTION
There is already one ash heap solution being used right here in the U.S. Turn the ash into part of a concrete mix. We're not likely to stop paving swaths of open space any time soon so let's go for ash-based cement. Dominion, a huge electricity generator, has a plant that reuses all its coal ash for just that: making cement. Maybe some of the feds' stimulus money could go to stimulate the turning of ash into cement? Want to see some data on ash to cement? Click here.
STAY TUNED FOR BLOVIATION
There'll be the mandatory Congressional hearing this week and TVA execs making excuses and state officials asking for federal bailout and somebody from the EPA saying coal ash is not really all that bad as long as it doesn't run you down. Or knock over your house. Let us all remember the EPA insists it is not toxic waste. Despite lead and arsenic and thallium and.... Think of it as the manure of the coal industry. So if it can't be made into methane, how about cement? We're gonna need lots of cement if we are really going to get into big-time "infrastructure" stuff.
Will TVA have the gall to ask for fedeal bailout? The costs of this ash crash wil be tremendous. A smaller ash spill in Kentucky three years ago cost nearly $40-million in damages and clean-up. This spill is fifty times larger. The 9 million rate payers who buy power from TVA should not be expecting any rate cuts out of this one. So much for cheap power from coal. As I said, time for a new energy calculus that includes pollution and environmental damage costs.