High concentrations of toxic chemicals contaminate samples taken from the Kingston Fossil Plant ash spill in Tennessee.
Appalachian Voices is reporting that levels of arsenic from the Kingston plant’s water intake canal are close to 300 times the allowable limit in drinking water. Two miles downstream, arsenic is 30 times the allowable level. In total, eight toxic chemicals were detected at excessive levels, the tests conducted at Appalachian State University have shown.
“I have never seen levels of arsenic, lead and copper this high in natural waters,” Carol Babyak, an Appalachian state assistant professor of chemistry who helped conduct the tests, is quoted as saying in the Appalachian Voices article.
These results are in stark contrast to what the Tennessee Valley Authority is reporting, raising serious doubts about the TVA’s truthfulness. On its Web page devoted to the catastrophe (which it euphemistically calls an “ash slide”), the TVA says the most recent water sampling, conducted near the ash release area, “indicate that the concentrations of sampled contaminants either met or were below detection levels established by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to protect fish and aquatic life.”
A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release issued last week stated that “unless people regularly drink untreated river water, the arsenic should not cause any adverse health effects.” In light of the independent testing at Appalachian State, this now seems alarmingly irresponsible.
The toxic heavy metals found in the water, which in addition to arsenic include barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and thallium, pose a risk not only to human health but also to aquatic life as well, according to Shea Tuberty, Babyak’s collaborator and an associate professor of biology at Appalachian State. It may take generations for natural processes to isolate the toxins from the environment, Tuberty is quoted in the article as saying.