|Kingston Tenn., The Emory river 01/09/09 Flight by SouthWings|
|Widow Creek power plant coal waste in the Tennessee. River|
|Widow Creek power plant|
|Widow Creek power plant coal waste in the river|
After the Widows Creek blowout I decided to survey all of the coal fired power plants in Alabama and their coal ash ponds. What I found opened my eyes forever to the potential for major issues here in our state as well. Not only the potential for failure in the dikes and dams but a serious threat from chronic discharges of heavy metals such as Mercury from these ponds into Waterways of the US in large volumes. ADEM claimed there was no environmental impact to the ecosystem! Due to time restraints and fuel we were not able to survey all of the sites but what we found was alarming to say the least.
|Miller Power Plant|
|Gorgas power plant|
|Green County power plant|
In this photo you can see the haphazard dikes constructed out of material that would not be approved in normal dam construction in all probability. In Kingston as well as Widow Creek the dikes or berms were constructed out of what's called "bottom ash". At the older plants like this one, that would contain some of the most toxic coal ash since it's been there well before the Clean Air Act. That was the law which brought in sophisticated "scrubbers" on the smoke stacks.
On closer examination I saw the tell-tail streak of black water leaving the ash pond discharge
|Leroy is not an APCO facility.|
Traveling South We flew over the Leroy Plant along the Tombigbee River. It too is a fairly new facility and I saw no immediate issues there but once again there was the same scenario of coal ash storage too close to the river. Hopefully nothing ever does happen but if it does there's no stopping it from causing severe damage to the waterway, aquatic life as well as an economic disaster for commercial fishermen who use this stretch of river for their livelihoods.
|Barry Power plant discharges to Mobile River|
The next stop was a real eye opener. Barry Steam Plant was, by far the worst discharges I saw all day from any power plant in the state. There was a long black tail of water coming out into the river and curling downstream. It was visible from a mile out and at about 2,000 feet elevation.
|Shame on you Trey|
The reason for my post here is to point out the flawed and falling system for holding major polluters accountable. ADEM is funded, primarily by fees collected for permits. Most of any funds collected through fines is directed into the state "General Fund" and is not distributed back to ADEM for operating expenses needed to adequately patrol the thousands of pollution sites in the state. That is by design so that polluters who also contribute millions of dollars to corrupt politicians also hold the purse strings for our state agency who is here to enforce the Clean Water Act.
Mr. Glenn and other directors, including the current director, Lance LeFleur have stated publicly that it's not ADEM's job to enforce the Clean Water Act. ADEM's job is to issue permits. It is the exact definition of "The fox guarding the henhouse" in Alabama politics. That must change. We need to either change politics or change politicians soon!