• Anonymous Personal Disaster Story

    Sometime after midnight , December 22, 2008 , the Coal Ash Waste Pond by the Kingston Coal Fuel Plant in Kingston , TN , started collapsing. The dyke had been leaking, which shows up on the satellite pictures which were taken before the disaster happened. By zooming in Google Maps Street View and following along with the moving van carrying the camera, the spots of leakage can be seen.

    The emergency crews were called out, and no one knew what to do because a command center was not set up. The rescue people who first arrived went from house to house looking for victims making sure that no one had died. Still no command center was set up. After a while someone asked who was in charge, and someone pointed to Kilgore, the CEO of the TVA plant. Kilgore did not set up a command center and it was mass confusion. Emergency drills had not been practiced, as they thought that a disaster would not happen to them.

    I woke up about 9:30 am to planes and helicopters flying in the sky. It was like a war zone out side. I walked out on my deck and on the lake was fishing boats full of men heading towards the TVA plant, and there was a white muddy looking film on the top of the lake. I ran back into the house and turned on the local news and there it was. The horrible toxic coal ash disaster was right there on the TV. I thought that the ash was on the other side of the plant and didn’t even drive out the road to look at it. My dad called me later and told me to drive out my road and take a look, because he said it was horrible. I did what he said and there it was just three houses down from mine. I sat and cried. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Our beautiful lake was now ugly and contaminated and noisy from all the commotion going on both sides of the lake.

    I live on Emory River Road across from the actual disaster. People came from all over to view the disaster. Cars were turning around in my driveway nonstop. I started coughing and having headaches. My throat started getting scratchy and my voice sounded raspy. My eyes started burning and itching. I started coughing up phylum and my ears even itched. I didn’t know what was happening. I thought that I was coming down with a virus. It never went away.

    I was contacted by the United Mountain Defense to take a heavy metal testing, and I was happy to take the test. UMD had gotten a grant to cover the cost of 29 persons to get the test free. I went into the hospital about a month later having chest pains and had to have a stint put into one of my arteries. While I was in the hospital, I stopped coughing, the headaches went away, the raspy throat went away and I felt better. When I returned home, all the same symptoms came back.

    On January 31, I flew to Delaware to take some training on air sampling so that we could do independent air sampling and all my symptoms when away while I was gone and when I returned all the symptoms came back. I got the results back from the heavy metal testing and I had higher than the range levels of aluminum, tin, antimony, bismuth, silver, and nickel. The test showed that I also have a skin disease called porphyria which is connected to heavy metal poisoning. To think that all the 40 years that I have lived at my house, I had been breathing in toxic coal fly ash from the ponds when the wind blew. I never new that there was fly ash in the ponds.

    I could go stay with my daughter in Nashville to get away from all this toxic fly ash, but there are people in the Swan Pond area who need help to get out of there. All they breathe is dust and toxic coal fly ash, and listen to trucks going by 24/7 and blasting from the quarry where they get the gravel. The trucks are moving fly ash from one place to another. Therefore, toxic fly ash if getting spread where ever these trucks travel. How can anyone live in this type environment?

  • Tennessee Coal Ash Survivors – The Begining

    We all went to bed as usual the night of December 21st, just four days before Christmas. But that night would be different. That night would change our lives forever. Around 1 am on December 22, the unthinkable happened. A retention wall for the TVA Kingston Fossil Fuel Plant’s 84-acre fly ash containment pond collapsed, spilling out 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash into the Emory and Clinch Rivers. The grey, muddy ash quickly moved into the surrounding lake, cove, and rushed toward nearby homes.

    Kingston-fossil-plantThe sludge came rolling in, causing a loud noise that alerted the families closest to the plant that disaster was at their door step. Several families barely escaped with their lives as their homes were filled with sludge or were knocked off their foundations. One little beagle dog was tied up in front of one of the homes and sludge covered him completely. No one could save him in time.

    As the front of the pond wall fell, a large tidal wave also headed straight across the lake toward homes on the opposite side. The waves rolled over their docks knocking them down, taking boats and wave runners with them.

    The popular fishing cove near the plant filled up with sludge and chunks of coal fly ash which stuck up like icebergs as high as 10 to 20 feet. The aftermath looked like a movie scene on the ugliest planet imaginable. The beautiful cove and shoreline became dark grey muck.

    Residents called 911 and emergency workers arrived. They ran to homes making sure no lives were lost and that everyone had gotten out. Shock set in as residents slowly grasped the enormous disaster that laid before them. The spill was a monster that took away homes, landscape, our favorite fishing cove, and filled our beautiful Emory River.

    Dead fish floated to the shore down stream of the plant. Meanwhile, nearby residents who slept through the ordeal woke up to the noise of helicopters, private planes, fishing boats filled with people on the lake in freezing temperatures, and a muddy color ash floating all over the lake. It sounded like a war zone. After turning on the local news, we were shocked to discover the nightmare that would change our lives forever.

    Now, several weeks after the disaster, most residents are still living among the ash. A few residents closest to the spill have worked with TVA to sell their homes and move away, but many more still remain. Health problems, including respiratory issues, are becoming evident and the residents are becoming increasingly concerned. How will this affect us all long term? How will TVA help our situation and the environment? Is this a safe place to live?

    Our group, “Tennessee Coal Ash Survivors Network,” was formed to help our community get through this disaster, giving residents hope, comfort, aid, a voice in the community, air monitoring and sampling data, heavy metal testing for the people, environmental information, etc. We want to thank United Mountain Defense, a non-profit organization which has helped to form this group as well as provide aid to our residents. We would have been lost without UMD. Our goal is be survivors and give hope to people of our community and to other people who may someday experience a disaster like ours.

  • Home Repairs after a Natural Disaster

    Home Repairs after a Natural DisasterA natural disaster can occur in every part of the world. Such disasters range from blizzards, tornadoes and earthquakes. In some cases, a natural disaster can totally wipe out a home leaving the owners with no other option but to rebuild. But there are some lucky situations where only minor repairs are needed.

    It is very important for victims not to try returning to their homes until they have been permitted to do so by emergency services. After returning to their premises, these people need to make sure that electricity and power are turned off before beginning any cleaning up.


    • The first step into repairing or rebuilding a damaged house should be to examine it so as to determine the real extend of the damages. The lucky ones will just have to deal with minor repairs like siding the house or replacing the roof. There are those who will unfortunately need to start from scratch especially when the whole structure seems weak.
    • The second step involves getting funding. Luckily, there are some programs that offer help in such cases such as Government Grants and non-profit organizations. Insurance may also cover according to the specific policy.
    • Hiring a builder or construction company usually follows after funding has been acquired. Minor repairs can be handled by specialists that deal with a specific area of building. Some of these non-profit organizations may even offer building volunteers, but it is always better to seek the services of a construction service when the damages are extensive. However, there are some repairs that can be handled by the occupants of the house to save money. For example, if it is a faucet that needs repair or replacement, you can easily repair/replace it with the help of a manual. Choosing the best brand of kitchen faucets can easily be made online, for example, you can easily choose which style to get here.

    For those who have been lucky enough to escape such disasters, they can always help disaster victims in the following ways:

    • Donating money to respectable agencies and organizations such as United Way or the Red Cross. Such organizations will even offer information on how the donations are used in case of disasters.
    • Donating blood for the victims. In most cases, blood of all types is urgently in demand during and after all natural disasters. One unit of donated blood can save up to three lives.
    • Volunteering to help immediately. There is more than enough information on the internet on where volunteer services are needed. There are also many organizations offering training and various skills on how to help disaster victims.
    • Donating the necessary items. The public can always check out with the various disaster organizations and even send what is needed via the same organizations. In most cases, these organizations prefer cash donations because it costs them more to store and ship items to the victims.
    • Arranging fundraisers and garage sales. This will help raise funds for the survivors.
    • Volunteering to help in the rebuilding of their homes.

  • The Safety of Medication after a Natural Disaster

    The Safety of Medication after a Natural DisasterThe following are some guidelines on how to handle or use drugs or medication that has been possibly affected by disasters like fire, flooding or unsafe water according to the Center for Drug Evaluation:

    Drugs That Have Been Exposed To Fire or Excessive Heat

    There is some possibility of the effectiveness of some drugs being affected by fires and other situations that involve high temperatures. It is wise to consider replacing your medications if they were exposed to such circumstances even when they appear normal to the naked eye.

    Life Saving Medication That Has Been Exposed To Heat

    Life saving drugs should be replaced as soon as possible after being exposed to extreme heat. The medication may continue to be taken as long as their container looks normal, but only until the replacements have been acquired.

    Drugs That Have Been Exposed To Risky/Unsafe Water

    All types of drugs including inhalers, pills, skin medications and oral liquids that may have been exposed to hazardous water like floods or unsafe municipal water may be contaminated and they may cause serious health complications.

    Drugs for injection that have been exposed to such conditions should be replaced too, and this includes the popular HCG injections for weight loss. One Tennessee Coal Ash survivor contacted the Center for Drug Evaluation wondering if her HCG pellets were still safe for use. She was advised to get replacements any way just to be on the safe side. HCG treatments come in two varieties, the injections and the pellets. They all work the same way, if you can handle shots like these HCG injections you may choose to go for them but in her case she used these instead which are hgc pellets or tablets.

    It is strongly recommended that all drug products that have been exposed to unsafe water to get replaced, even when they are still in their original containers.

    Life Saving Drugs That Have Been Exposed To Water

    In situations where the exposed drugs are lifesaving (like insulin and Anti-retroviral Drugs) and they cannot be replaced immediately, they may be used even if the container is contaminated but the contents appear are dry and normal, but only until the replacement are obtained. If however the pills or medications are wet, they may be contaminated and should be gotten rid of immediately.

    Medication That Needs Refrigeration

    There are some drugs that need refrigeration always like somatrophin, insulin and reconstituted drugs. When electrical power has been unavailable for long, these drugs need to be discarded immediately. There may be exceptions where lifesaving drugs like insulin can still be used, but only until a replacement had been obtained. Insulin and other temperature-sensitive drugs will lose potency when not kept under refrigeration. Here is some info regarding insulin storage. 

    In cases where the affected drugs cannot be replaced quickly, a health care provider should be contacted as soon as possible like the Red Cross, poison control and other health departments. Also, these same healthcare providers should be contacted where the safety or effectiveness of any drug is questionable.

  • Cleaning Up After a Flood

    cleaning after a floodOnly a person who lives in a flood-prone area can understand fully how damaging flood waters can be to a home or a business. The truth is that nothing can be as tiring as cleaning up after a flood.

    Discussed below are some tips on how to manage after a flood:

    • The first thing you should think of is ridding your home of the mud carried in by the floods. Arm yourself and everyone else involved in the cleaning with a shovel and a pair of rubber gloves. Clear as much as you can using your shovels. Make sure to wear the rubber gloves and rubber boots as you clear the mud away since it will be most likely be contaminated. The little mud that remains after the shoveling can be washed away with a hose.
    • Use a mixture of 2 tbs of chlorine bleach for every gallon of relatively hot water to scrub walls, floors, kitchen counters and built in shelves. Include all other surfaces that were touched by the flood.
    • Transport clothing, rugs, furniture, curtains and like items outside to air. Anything that is totally damaged and cannot be rescued by thorough cleaning and disinfecting like carpets, rugs and other upholstered items should be disposed off accordingly. There are some heavy duty steam mops in the Steam Mop Guys’s website that are perfect for such circumstances.
    • If you cannot afford to replace a carpet that has been damaged by mold and mildew stains, it is possible to replace only the affected areas. This is a simple process that is usually carried out using a simple rug repair kit. The process involves cutting out the damaged areas using a carpet knife. The next step is to glue on your replacement fibers and allowing them enough drying time.  If the mold/mildew has penetrated to the floor, you should consider calling in a mold/mildew removing expert.
    • Dispose off any mattresses that were damaged by the flood, never attempt to reuse them.
    • cleaning after a floodOpen all windows and run the air conditioner or humidifier if you have one to get rid of moisture. Use fans to circulate air around the house and vacuum up mold and mildew immediately as it usually is toxic.
    • If there are any wallboards, paneling and plaster that ere affected by the floods, replace them and get rid of dampened insulation too. Linoleum and other removable flooring should also be removed so as to let subflooring to dry well.
    • Transport affected books and documents out to dry or clean them if they were affected by the mud. You may freeze them first before drying them to prevent the development of mildew.

    As always, do not attempt any cleaning before taking clear photos or videos of all the damages. This is very important if you are entitled to claims. Also, switch off the main power supply before attempting a clean out and have an electrician inspect your wiring system for damaged outlets afterwards.

  • Cleaning Up After A Natural Disaster

    disaster clean upSometimes after a natural disaster, or any other disaster like the Tennessee Coal Ash disaster, all the people want to do is clean up and get back to their normal lives. While this might seem like a good idea, it usually is not the best thing to do immediately after a disaster, especially if it was a natural disaster. This is because of insurance and claim matters.

    Therefore, the first thing you should do is take clear photographs of all damages before cleaning up. Make sure to store all your damaged property and parts safely, except maybe the perishable items like food, but make sure you take photos before disposing them off.

    Other things you should be able to do include turning off leaking gas and water, boarding up any broken windows and covering holes in the walls or roof with tarpaulins. Remember that these things should only be done if it absolutely safe to do so. Remember to take photos too, especially if you are entitled to claims.

    Some damages like water, coal and fire need to be cleaned up as soon as possible since toxins and mold will accumulate very fast. In most cases, water damage is accompanied by smoke and fire damage. This is because water is in most cases used to extinguish fires. Below are some tips to deal with such damages:

    • Keep out of any room that has a sagging ceiling due to retained water.
    • Remove wet rugs, carpets and all wet floor coverings.
    • Move computers and other appliances to dry areas.
    • Transport paintings, photos and other decorative items to a dry location.
    • Take any wet books and papers out of the shelves and spread them out to dry. To slow down mildew growth especially on important documents and valuable books, freeze them before drying them.
    • If there are any wet furniture cushions, prop them up for drying.
    • Do not use ordinary vacuums including the one you might have been using for vacuuming up pet hair on the carpet or sofa to remove water.

    For odor removal, here are a few tips:

    • Move extremely smelly items outside, open all windows and turn on fans for maximum air flow.
    • To remove smoke odor on carpets, use a carpet steam cleaner like the Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Washer, FH50150 or hire a professional to get it done.
    • Baking soda can also be used to eliminate smoke odor in carpets and furniture, just dust it on the carpet and furniture and leave it to settle for a day or two before vacuuming it up. Repeat the procedure every few days until the odor is gone completely.
    • If the ceiling has a light coating from the smoke, get a professional ceiling cleaner to get rid of it. If, however, the buildup is heavy, it will most likely need tile replacement. Don’t consider painting as it will destroy their acoustic properties.
    •  Changing the air and heat filters is also recommended.
    • If after trying everything the odors still persist, get professional help.

  • Anonymous Personal Account

    On December 22, 2008 my husband and myself was woke up by these sirens coming by our house. We thought that someones house was burning or something to that matter. Never thought of the tragic that we heard as we got up at 5:15 to get ready for work. We turned on our t.v. to listen to the news as we always do and that is when we heard about the ash spill. I thought oh my god, what has happened?

    So my husband and myself left for work and started out swan pond circle road and we were stopped by the police, he said that we couldn’t get through because the road was gone due to the ash spill, so we turned around and had to go out the long way around. We will be going out this way for a long time that is how we feel. We couldn’t see what had happened until we came back home and that is when we seen the most horrifing sight, it was unreal.

    Since the spill I have been having alot of headaches, eyes burning and itching, coughing, nose bleeds and some horrible nightmares. I never had a nightmare in my life until this. People probably think I am crazy or making this up but I am not. Why would I lie or make something up this terrible. I hate it. My husband and I bought this home in April of 2008 and have spent time and money on it fixing it up and now look at what we have to face everyday. This awful, dirty, stinking, nasty, gray, gloomy, dusty stuff. I don’t like it. I want out of hear now, but we can’t sell or leave.

    We don’t have that kind of money to just pack up and leave. If we did we sure wouldn’t be on Swan Pond Circle Road that’s for sure. T.V.A sure isn’t going to do anything for us. I am just sick of the whole ordeal you can’t leave your home without seeing 25 to 50 dump trucks a day or maybe more. We almost got hit by one the other day at the intersection of Quarry Road and Swan Pond Circle. What are we to do? All I know is that I am sick, depressed, I am on medicine because of this tragedy. Rumor is that it maybe 5 years before all this mess is cleaned up. I don’t know if my nerves will let me stay in this mess that long.

  • A Personal Account From Jeff

    My name is Jeff Harrill. I have a wife (Christie) and three kids (Lexie 7, Tyler 4, and Isaiah 5wks). We are not having any adverse effects from the ash so far that we know of. Our concerns start with our kid’s future. We are worried about the heavy metals in the ash, especially the mercury which is proven to cause autism in children.

    It is our understanding that any children under the age of 10 can be affected. This includes all three of our children, our neighbors Shane and Tiffany Whittenbarger have a three year old daughter, Haley, and there are at least 5 other young children in our section that we know about. We have gone to the outreach center and filed our claim and all we have heard is, “Yes, we can tell you that you are in the system.”

    Another concern is that when we went to the outreach center, our area by the quarry wasn’t even numbered to be in the affected area. Oh sure, we got a letter from TVA recently, stating that they haven’t forgotten about us. Surely everyone didn’t get the SAME letter. It seemed SOOOOO very personal. Another issue is the hundreds of trucks that travel on Swan Pond Rd. every day. We have had to wait for 40 trucks to come up from the quarry before we could pull out of Steven Lane. Both of our windshields have damage from the rocks falling out of the back of the trucks.

    I want to emphasize that it wasn’t road debris, this fell out of the door on the back of the trucks. One of our vehicles was even damaged as my wife was driving in the opposite direction. As she went by the truck, a rock smacked against the windshield. There are several times that we have had to swerve because a truck was over the yellow line and could have hit us. I would dare to guess that many people out here have had close calls such as these. If we had the money, we wouldn’t have a problem moving before TVA did something but unfortunately that isn’t the situation. All we can do is pray and trust in God.