Residents in the city of Eden, North Carolina are currently in danger of having their drinking water destroyed thanks to Duke Energy. The coal giant has reported a coal ash spill in the Dan River with as much as 82,000 tons of the toxic pollutant released into the waterway.
According to EcoWatch, it took an astounding 24 hours after the accident occurred for Duke to issue a press release to inform the public about the chemicals that were very quickly making their way down river. It is currently estimated that 22 million gallons of coal ash are now flowing along the river. The spill has already been declared the third largest in U.S. history.
A new report out from Wake Forest University concludes that coal ash waste from Duke Energy’s Sutton coal plant in Wilmington, NC is elevating levels of selenium pollution in nearby Sutton Lake. The lake, prized by fishermen for its largemouth bass population, has been contaminated, according to a study released today by Prof. Dennis Lemly, Research Associate Professor of Biology at Wake Forest, with high levels of selenium. Selenium has been linked to deformities in fish – including two-headed trout – and can cause a condition known as selenosis if people consume high enough doses in their food or drinking water.
Several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which joined the University in announcing the findings, filed suit against Duke Energy Progress, Inc. this summer, arguing that pollution from the Sutton plant's coal ash is “killing a regional fishing lake and is threatening a community’s drinking water.”
The new report, which found that the coal ash pollution kills over 900,000 fish and deforms thousands more in Sutton Lake each year, is likely to bolster the plaintiffs' case in that suit.
The research also highlights one of the most fundamental problems with American energy policy: policy-makers and the public have been unwilling to recognize the true costs of the fuels we use to make electricity.
The Inspector General of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released a new report showing that coal ash holding sites at several TVA-owned coal-fired power plants has managed to contaminate groundwater. The report says that chemical concentrations are so high in certain areas that they could pose a serious health risk to residents. Among the chemicals that the Inspector General’s report lists as being found in the water supply were arsenic, cadmium, beryllium, selenium, and vanadium.
While the chemicals found in the water supply show that there is a serious threat to local communities coming from the coal ash repositories, that isn’t the most disturbing part of the report. The real problem is that the TVA knew about the chemicals being leaked into the water supply for at least a decade, and did nothing. The report says that the TVA had found chemicals indicating coal ash leaks in areas in and around Memphis, as well as other sites across Tennessee.
September is back to school month, but the next big test for the White House and EPA has already begun. How the Obama administration handles the proposed regulation of coal ash - the toxic waste left over from coal-burning power plants loaded with mercury, lead, and arsenic - will serve as a key indicator of the administration’s sincerity in responding to one of the worst energy and environmental crises threatening the health and water supplies of millions of Americans.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.