Clean Coal? Storage Failure Covers 12 Homes, 400 Acres with Toxic Ash

Last night, 12 homes across 400 acres of a Tennessee town were damaged after coal ash erupted out of a nearby storage pond.

Today, thirty-nine environmental groups have petitioned Barack Obama to reject Bush’s new rule that will allow coal ash from power plants to be more easily dumped in abandoned mines, despite the known risks of water pollution.


Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for electricity, is known to contain such toxins as mercury and arsenic, and is actually 100 times more radioactive than nuclear waste. While storing the waste in old mines does help prevent disasters like the one in Tennessee, the toxins still seep into the groundwater while sitting in the mine.

“Disposal of coal ash in mines is a growing practice that threatens the health and environment of coalfield communities,” said Lisa Graves Marcucci, president of Jefferson Action Group, based in Pennsylvania.

While the flood in Tennessee is actually much smaller than coal ash pond disasters in the past, it is still an unpleasant reminder that there really is no such thing as clean coal. The ash will always be a problem, even if the CO2 is somehow sequestered underground.

UPDATE: Greenpeace is now calling for a criminal investigation into the spill. Similar accidents have resulted in felony charges in the past.

“Every facility like this is supposed to have a spill contingency plan to prevent this kind of disaster,” said Rick Hind, Greenpeace Legislative Director. “The authorities need to get to the bottom of what went wrong and hold the responsible parties accountable.”


[Via It’s Getting Hot in Here]

Photo Credit: Underclassrising on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

5 thoughts on “Clean Coal? Storage Failure Covers 12 Homes, 400 Acres with Toxic Ash”

  1. Alex, the concerns are chemical, not nuclear. Arsenic and mercury are in the coal ash and can get into water sources, but the Scientific American article you link is very misleading about radioactivity. Please see my fisking of the nuclear concerns.

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