AND PENNSYLVANIA -- The burning of coal at power plants produces a byproduct
known as fly ash. Many times the waste isn't properly stored and that can pose
serious health concerns.
December 22, 2008, the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant west
of Knoxville suffered a major fly ash spill. An earthen dike failed, releasing
an estimated 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash into 300 acres surrounding the
spill resulted in the evacuation of a nearby residential area. It also damaged
a natural gas line and disrupted power and transportation.
the aftermath, TVA ended up buying all 180 properties and 150 houses affected
by the spill and recovery effort.
land received a big-time makeover, but what about the effects of the fly ash on
the health of people and the environment? According to the TVA, it's not a
look to independent studies, and they have determined in thousands and
thousands of samples and in two studies that are public, that there is no harm
to human health as a result of the elements that are in coal ash," Anda
Ray, TVA's senior vice president of Engineering, Environmental, and Support
Services, told CBN News.
I understand that people are worried," Ray added. "And perhaps
there's other issues, and they need to check with their physician."
that to worried residents living near fly ash impoundments in Pennsylvania.
Markish lives in La Belle. The view from his yard is a massive dump site,
complete with the rumble of large trucks hauling the ash. He showed CBN News a
substance around his property that he says has been tested and proven to be fly
says he and his wife have battled cancer, and he has asthma.
certainly don't believe that it is helping me, especially like when I come out
here, my eyes begin to water," Markish said. "I can taste foul
things, and I see dust that is coming from the dump up there."
primary concern for residents of La Belle, Pennsylvania, is what's called
"fugitive dust." They say because the fly ash is not contained
properly, the wind blows it into their communities, coating their properties
and affecting their health.
neighbors, Yma and Rudy Smith, told CBN News they are both on kidney dialysis.
ate the roof off of my home, so if it did that, what is it doing to the insides
of my body?" Yma Smith questioned. "Breathing, I'm coughing; my eyes
are burned. I can't go outside and sit."
husband, Rudy, believes fly ash is at least partly to blame for the death of
his friend, who was only 56 years old.
want this community to be cleaned up," Rudy Smith told CBN News. "I'm
tired of seeing my friends in this community die. My friend I used to work at
the coal mine with, Mike Kwasny, he died from cancer in the sinuses."
nation's largest coal ash impoundment is about an hour and a half north of La
Belle. Despite its massive size, it's known as Little Blue Run and sits on the
Pennsylvania-West Virginia border.
fly ash is stored in a large body of water, and like the residents in La Belle,
homeowners there say health issues are prevalent.
Mislevy lives near Little Blue Run. She told CBN News she knows a lot of people
who are sick, and she blames fly ash.
say about 83 for sure, and... it's all health problems, whether it's cancer or
it's lung, simple sinus issues, asthma -- which is lung -- skin rashes that
just appear for no reason," Mislevy said.
Hughes also lives near Little Blue Run. Doctors diagnosed her daughter with
Hodgkin's disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. Hughes believes fly ash is
we went to a physician in Pittsburgh, he asked us point blank what were we
doing in Beaver County because at the same time she was diagnosed with the
Hodgkin's, there were several other [s]," Hughes said.
September 2010 report by Physicians for Social Responsibility and Earthjustice,
states "...coal ash commonly contains some of the world's deadliest toxic
metals: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium. These and other
toxicants in coal ash can cause cancer and neurological damage in humans."
report goes on to say, "...coal ash toxins have the potential to injure
all of the major organ systems, damage physical health and development, and
even contribute to mortality."
Graves Marcucci works for the Environmental Integrity Project. She's an
advocate for the people living near La Belle and Little Blue Run.
someone who has visited and really spent lots of time with folks in these
neighborhoods who are living near these sites, there seems to be a pattern that
develops, that makes you wonder, 'is there a correlation between?'"
Marcucci told CBN News.
think at this point, we don't know. But I think we should be erring on the side
of caution and putting in safety mechanisms that really are common sense so
that we can protect human health," she added.
and others want the Environmental Protection Agency to establish federal
minimum standards for all 50 states to protect the health of people and the
environment -- standards that the states would enforce, including the
fly ash dumps as well as covering them daily
tarps over the trucks that haul the ash
disclosure of pollutants in the ash
to control "fugitive dust"
phasing out of wet storage ponds like Little Blue Run
monitoring at the dump sites
need to say that maybe the cost of doing business includes healthy protections
for everyone -- workers and people who share the fence line," Marcucci
What the EPA
EPA officially considers fly ash non-hazardous waste. Even so, its website
acknowledges fly ash contains "contaminants like mercury, cadmium and
arsenic associated with cancer and various other serious health effects."
website also says, "EPA's risk assessment and damage cases demonstrate
that without proper protections, these contaminants can leach into groundwater
and often migrate to drinking water sources, posing public significant health
addition, in a written statement to CBN news, the EPA said, "Fly ash is
composed of very small, fine particles, and breathing in fly ash may cause
respiratory problems in humans."
coming on my property, harming me and my wife, plus my neighbors, plus my dogs;
I've lost four or five dogs to cancer," Markish said. "It's just not