Tennessee not-so-clean coal sludge spill estimate grows to 1 billion gallons

TVA officials originally said the cleanup would take four to six weeks. Now they say they aren't sure.CNN updates the coal story of the year:

Estimates for the amount of thick sludge that gushed from a Tennessee coal plant last week have tripled to more than a billion gallons, as cleanup crews try to remove the goop from homes and railroads and halt its oozing into an adjacent river.

That would be “enough to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools” assuming you wanted to fill your pool with “concentrated levels of mercury and arsenic.” And that is, as Richard Graves puts it, “more than 100 times larger than the Exxon Valdez disaster and, in fact, more than every drop of petroleum used in the United States that day.”

The next time someone says “clean coal,” be sure to do that bit where you cough and say “B.S.” Or maybe skip the couging part.

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7 Responses to Tennessee not-so-clean coal sludge spill estimate grows to 1 billion gallons

  1. Rick C says:

    Maybe this coal sludge spill will be a watershed event that effects the coal and utilities industries the way that Three Mile Island and the Chernobyl disaster did to nuclear power.

  2. Mr.Mom says:

    Everytime I read about the horrible things weve done to our HOME, I begin to loose hope, inch by inch. Its getting to hard to read, all the death we cause in our environment.

  3. John Mashey says:

    UCS says there are about 600 coal plants in the US, and here says:

    “Waste created by a typical 500-megawatt coal plant includes more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber each year. Nationally, more than 75% of this waste is disposed of in unlined, unmonitored onsite landfills and surface impoundments.”

    So, that sounds like 600 * ~300,000 tons/year = 180M tons/year, which makes sense, given that the US burns about 1B tons/coal/year.

  4. David B. Benson says:

    John Mashey — I suspect quite a bit more than one billion tons per year.

  5. John Mashey says:

    Google: us coal supply eia

    Numbers over last few years are between 1 and 1.17B tons, as I read their charts. I just wrote 1B for a quick sanity check, 1 significant digit.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    John Mashey — Thanks. After all, what’s 170 million tons among friends. :-)

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    Mr. Mom – the first stage of fixing a problem is to recognize that the problem exists. We humans are poor at recognizing the ways in which we mess our nests until the stench gets strong.

    Coal has been a cheap source of power and we’ve been willing to overlook/accept the problems until they reached a very serious level. Typical of us.

    It seems to me that we are in the early days of the end of coal. I’d say that in 20 years or less we will look at coal as an arcane method of feeding our grids. It will seem as old fashioned as the coal stove in my grandparent’s sitting room.