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Calling on TVA to Cover Medical Costs for Spill Victims

Rob Perks

Posted January 12, 2009

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That massive spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant, which flooded over 400 acres with 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge, has local residents coping not just with disrupted lives and damaged property but also with concerns about their health.  The coal ash covering the community is laden with pollutants such as arsenic (a carcinogen) and heavy metals.  Local residents are greatly concerned about the health of their families, but many cannot afford the medical tests necessary to find out if they have been exposed to toxics in the coal ash.

It seems obvious that TVA should cover all costs so that the victims of this disaster can get independent, third-party medical testing and health services free of charge.  Alas, TVA hasn't offered to do this -- and our contacts on the scene are saddened but not surprised by this.

We encourage everyone to tell TVA to do the righ thing.  Either email CEO Tom Kilgore ( or send him a letter c/o Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 W. Summit Hill Dr., Knoxville, TN 37902-1499.  Here is a sample message:

"I am writing to urge TVA to promptly make funds available for independent, third-party medical testing and health services for all persons in the area affected by the Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill.  The spill has put local residents at risk of exposure to toxics such as arsenics and heavy metals.  These families need to know whether they have been exposed and obtain any medical care necessary to protect their health.  It is TVA's responsibility, as owner of the Kingston facility, to ensure that residents are not left to bear by themselves the economic and health burdens caused by the toxic spill. Therefore, we urge TVA to pay for independent health testing and care for all residents who request it."

In the likely event that TVA will ignore public pleas to cover medical fees for those affected by the coal ash spill, you can help ensure that the appropriate health screenings for residents and water quality sampling get done.  NRDC has provided funding to assist with the ongoing testing that is underway by our local partner, United Mountain Defense

UMD's Chris Erwin tells us that this ongoing testing is not cheap.  He also reports the need for other expensive items, including hepa filters (with weekly filter changes) for every household.

If you would like to aid this urgent effort, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to UMD for testing equipment, lab fees, paper, photocopies, gas and general support.  You can donate via PayPal or mail your check to:

United Mountain Defense
P.O. Box 20363
Knoxville, TN 37920
(Please mark check: "For TVA Spill")

For a look at how UMD is helping the community, the video below is of the group's recent clinic for impacted residents on heavy metal testing.  It's worth noting that these medical tests cost $500 per person -- so far, donations to UMD have provided financial assistance for 21 individuals.  Obviously, many more people need testing and your contribution -- of any amount -- will help see that they get it.


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BobJan 12 2009 09:47 PM

Thank you for continuing to bring this story the attention it desparately deserves.

Kathleen SeidelJan 13 2009 01:57 PM

As I just commented to Erin Brockovich over on Huffington Post, advocates for victims of the Harriman spill need to be very careful about their choice of alliances. Are you aware that Tamara Mariea is not a doctor or otherwise licensed as a healthcare provider in Tennessee? Are you aware that she is currently being sued by a client for misrepresentation? See Courthouse News Service and my weblog for more information:

The Swan Pond community is facing a life and death situation. Residents should be encouraged to seek out testing from legitimate medical doctors, not from self-styled, unlicensed "toxicity specialists." They should not risk their health, sabotage their search for justice, or waste their own and their donors' money, by relying on poorly qualified practitioners and nonstandard testing.

Rob PerksJan 13 2009 03:08 PM

I must admit that I'm not aware of Tamara Mariea and agree with you that the folks suffering from this disaster need help from the best legal and medical experts available. Thanks for weighing in.

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