Front Porch Blog

Waterkeepers and Appalachian Voices take water samples at TVA spill

Environmental organizations teamed up Saturday to take water samples along the embattled Emory river despite attempts by authorities to keep them away.

John L. Wathen, a Hurricane Creekkeeper; Sandra Diaz, Appalachian Voices’ National Field Coordinator; and Donna Lisenby, the Watauga Riverkeeper, used kayaks to access the Emory River and the site of the Kingston Steam Plant spill. The three navigated two kayaks to take samples and photos among mounds of “ash bergs.”

Results of the independent sampling should be available in three or four days, Lisenby said.

A selection of photos is available immediately for use with appropriate credit (By John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper) The photos are copyrighted but offered without charge as a public service for environmental groups, web bloggers, and the news media.

The photos and videos show a river turned into a moonscape of ash bergs and thick seams of floating scum.

“This is the largest loss of material into a river I have ever seen,” said Wathen. “It could rank as one of America’s worst environmental disasters in recent history if not the worst. This tops the Susquehanna cave in, the Exxon Valdez, or the Martin County KY Tug River slurry spill.”

“Folks, it is time to change the way we do business with coal burning,” Wathen said.

Wathen said the groups have been denied access to public roads and escorted out of a waterway by private TVA security police who claimed they were given federal authority through the Patriot act.

These are, Watham said, “gestopo tactics intended to scare people away from the truth.”

Along with Donna Lisenby and Sandra Diaz, Watham skirted police lines and took samples. “Cops (were) yelling from both sides,” he said. “The cops in cars could not get to us for the water. The cops in the boat could not reach us for the mud and debris in the river, and the helicopter couldn’t land in the muck to pick us up either.”

The three did receive warnings from police and were told that the river was closed.

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Jamie is an Appalachian native with a deep and unshakeable love of the mountains her family has called home since the mid-1700s. With a background in journalism and communications, she has worked as AV's Senior Communications Coordinator since 2008, and served as editor (2008-2016) and consulting editor (2016-present) for The Appalachian Voice.


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