Toxic Coal Ash Cleanup Efforts Stopped After Deal Reached with U.S. EPA
[Editor's note: I had the chance to catch up with Donna Lisenby, the Watauga Riverkeeper, to get her reaction on the deal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made with the Tennessee Valley Authority. Lisenby states, "More than 5.4 million cubic yards is enough coal ash to fill a football field almost 94 feet high from end zone to end zone. Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, chromium and many other toxic pollutants. Leaving that enormous amount of ash in the Emory River to combine with all the other legacy pollutants just increases the total pollutant load. It creates a more polluted environment for decades to come. Waterkeeper Alliance is disappointed that TVA abandoned their 2008 promise to clean up and remove all the ash from the Emory, Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. Their broken promise and abject failure to properly clean up their toxic waste is one of many reasons the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to stop delaying action and enact proposed regulations that finally regulate coal ash a hazardous waste. Those regulations will phase out ash waste pits like the one at Kingston that are prone to failure, removing a clear and present danger to our waterways."]
Watch this video to get a sense of the magnitude of the coal ash spill when 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal ash sludge broke through a dike at TVA's Kingston coal-fired plant on Dec. 22, 2008. The spill covered more than 400 acres of land with toxic ash as high as six feet deep.
Four years after a coal processing plant operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) accidentally released tons of toxic coal ash into waterways in Kingston, the cleanup has finally come to an end.
But just because cleanup efforts have ceased, that does not mean that the pollution problem is gone.
In fact, quite the opposite is true. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached a deal with the TVA to allow the company to stop their cleanup efforts and allow “natural river processes” to dispose of the remaining toxic sludge.
Reports say that as much as 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge remain in the Emory River, a result of the 2008 dam rupture that released the coal ash from the processing plant. According to the U.S. EPA and TVA, it's perfectly fine to allow those contaminants to remain in the river. As the EPA puts it, dredging up the remaining coal ash would actually release even more pollutants into the water—including contaminants left over from previous industrial accidents and Department of Energy projects.
To put it more succinctly: The “leave it lie” mindset occurred in the past, making it impossible to clean up current spills without disturbing previous contaminants that weren’t cleaned. Pollution will now be left piled on top of other pollution, and so on and so on.
To make matters even worse, the industry and the U.S. EPA managed to convince residents of Kingston and Roane County that this is the best solution at a town hall meeting on the subject Thursday night.
The residents have lost the battle, and the TVA emerged as the clear winner in their own disaster. Had the U.S. EPA forced TVA to clean up the entire spill, the company would have paid nearly $180 million for the efforts. Instead, they get to “monitor” the natural river processes for the next few decades, at an estimated cost of $10 million. That’s a savings for the TVA of more than 90 percent.
While the blame for the actual spill rests upon the shoulders of the TVA, the U.S. EPA has put itself in a position now where they can share a part of the blame for the faltering clean up efforts. Over the last few years, the U.S. EPA has been reluctant to issue any form of ruling on the toxicity of coal ash, instead opting to hold town hall meetings to get input from U.S. citizens that have been hit with a barrage of misinformation from the dirty energy industry on coal ash.
The dangers of coal ash are well documented. And the decision to allow this sludge to remain in the Emory River, which is the result of poor decision-making during past environmental catastrophes, shows why it is of utmost importance to prevent future spills. The next time this happens, and under current circumstances that is incredibly likely, it will just be adding more pollutants to the mix, and they’ll sit in the river and wait for the next spill to add to the pile.
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Wisdom the mōlī, or Laysan albatross, is the oldest wild bird known to science at the age of at least 70. She is also, as of February 1, a new mother.
<div id="dadb2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa2ad8cb566c9b4b6d2df2693669f6f9"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1357796504740761602" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🚨Cute baby alert! Wisdom's chick has hatched!!! 🐣😍 Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and world’s oldest known, ban… https://t.co/Nco050ztBA</div> — USFWS Pacific Region (@USFWS Pacific Region)<a href="https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/statuses/1357796504740761602">1612558888.0</a></blockquote></div>
By Hui Hu
Winter is supposed to be the best season for wind power – the winds are stronger, and since air density increases as the temperature drops, more force is pushing on the blades. But winter also comes with a problem: freezing weather.
Comparing rime ice and glaze ice shows how each changes the texture of the blade. Gao, Liu and Hu, 2021, CC BY-ND
Ice buildup changes air flow around the turbine blade, which can slow it down. The top photos show ice forming after 10 minutes at different temperatures in the Wind Research Tunnel. The lower measurements show airflow separation as ice accumulates. Icing Research Tunnel of Iowa State University, CC BY-ND
While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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