Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pandora’s Ashtray


Last night WSMV reported the state is testing soil for radioactivity.

Several reports have also cited a 2007 Scientific American article stating coal fly ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste.

That’s what Kingston, TN has become. While TVA has yet to tell residents what is in the ash quickly blanketing the landscape, the Institute of Southern Studies has done what government officials and the media would not: a little poking around on the internet:
It turns out that the potential health risks from the spilled ash are clearly considerable. The top reported pollutant in the ash by volume is barium, which when ingested in drinking water can cause acute gastrointestinal disturbances and muscle weakness as well as kidney damage over time. Vanadium, another main ingredient in the ash, has been linked to respiratory problems, birth defects, and kidney and liver damage.

The coal ash also contains high levels of known human carcinogens including arsenic, chromium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic compounds, as well as suspected carcinogens such as lead and cobalt. Mercury and lead are also nervous system toxicants that can cause developmental problems, and a number of the chemicals in the ash have been linked to reproductive problems.

Here’s the breakdown:

Why aren’t we hearing this information from TVA officials? Why are they still saying the water is safe to drink? If they are worried about holding the liability bag, I don’t see how keeping quiet helps their cause.

And to all of the “free market” conservatives out there, I have a question: if you’re in favor of tort reform, which limits damages awarded to those injured in an environmental disaster such as this one, and you’re also in favor of fewer regulations over industries like utilities and coal-fired power plants, then what exactly is the incentive for a power-generating utility to dispose of their waste in a safe manner that doesn’t threaten the surrounding community? How exactly is the free hand of the market supposed to work if they’re never responsible for anything?