On the River: Coal Ash Stories

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Event: Coal Ash Stories Documentary Screening and panel with the filmmaker

Date/Time: Monday,  February 1st, 6:30pm

Venue: Sun-Ray Cinema, 1028 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204

Tickets: Free, RSVP required

Contact: www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org

Coal ash, the toxic remains of coal burning in power plants, is a hazardous waste. The concentrated substance is a chemical mixture that can cause cancer, developmental disorders, and reproductive problems in humans. It poisons our water and kills fish and wildlife. Finding beneficial uses or proper methods for disposal has become increasingly difficult for coal fired power plants, raising concerns about how this toxic ash could contaminate nearby communities.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 photo, Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices dips her hand into the Dan River in Danville, Va. as signs of coal ash appear in the river. Duke Energy estimates that up to 82,000 tons of ash has been released from a break in a 48-inch storm water pipe at the Dan River Power Plant in Eden N.C. Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps. Each time, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has effectively halted the lawsuit by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority to take enforcement action. In two cases, the state has proposed modest fines but no requirement that the nation’s largest electricity provider actually clean up the coal ash ponds. The third case is pending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 photo, Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices dips her hand into the Dan River in Danville, Va. as signs of coal ash appear in the river. Duke Energy estimates that up to 82,000 tons of ash has been released from a break in a 48-inch storm water pipe at the Dan River Power Plant in Eden N.C. Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps. Each time, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has effectively halted the lawsuit by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority to take enforcement action. In two cases, the state has proposed modest fines but no requirement that the nation’s largest electricity provider actually clean up the coal ash ponds. The third case is pending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Most coal-fired power plants dispose of toxic coal ash on site in large landfills or even open water settling ponds. The substance can be processed with other chemicals to lessen its toxicity, allowing for safer disposal. However, the threat of a leak or a breach in the system is a reality we all face. In 2008, a dike ruptured at an 84-acre solid waste containment area at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee. Over one billion gallons of coal fly ash slurry was released. In 2014, Duke Energy dumped nearly 39,000 tons of coal ash and 24 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina. The plume traveled 70 miles downstream, where it settled on the riverbed.

The St. Johns River Power Park located off of Heckscher Drive on the northside of Jacksonville is jointly owned by JEA and Florida Power and Light. This coal fired power plant and the neighboring, solely JEA owned Northside Generating Station sells some of its ash as an aggregate in concrete as questionable reuse. The remainder of its ash is disposed of in on-site landfills, some with liners, some without.

Recently, the EPA has agreed to finalize the first-ever federal regulations for the disposal of coal ash. Communities across the United States are now looking to gain protection from coal ash pollution.

Imagine being afraid to drink your water, take a bath, fish, or farm. Toxic coal ash stored across Florida poses exactly these risks. Communities are successfully pushing for clean-up in other southeastern states and we’re hosting an event in Jacksonville to help with these efforts.

St. John’s Riverkeeper is partnering with Northeast Florida Sierra Club, Earthjustice, The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Working Films to bring Coal Ash Stories, a documentary that highlights how coal ash is affecting people and communities, to Jacksonville. Four short films are focused on coal ash, public health concerns, related policy, and ways that communities are responding. A panel will follow the presentation that includes the filmmaker and local speakers. Come learn about the issues, talk with your neighbors, and find out how you can help protect your community. Register online for this free event at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org.

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.

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