Tennessee Tests Massive Sludge Spill for Toxins

Huge spill of coal ash has locals worried
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2008 5:02 AM CST

(Newser) – EPA officials are working through Christmas running tests on a river of sludge that inundated 400 acres in Tennessee, the Tennessean reports. The gloop, coal ash waste that spilled from a power plant retention pond early Monday, is suspected of containing high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins. Officials say water from contaminated rivers is still safe, but residents are skeptical.

"It doesn't look healthy to me," said one man eying a layer of muck clouding his favorite fishing spot. The sewage-like stench rising from local waters has people worried, but the Tennessee Valley Authority's chief downplayed the risks from the ash. "I don't think they have a problem being in their houses," he said. "I wouldn't pick any up or wade in it."