A Tennessee Valley Authority sludge holding pond in Harriman, Tennessee failed on December 22, flooding hundreds of acres with the liquid form of fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal at the Kingston Fossil Plant. Fly ash contains heavy metals and other toxins; residents of Harriman and other downstream communities are now faced with the fear that their air and water has been contaminated as well as the physical devastation of their land.
This spill is the latest chapter in a story that Appalshop has been sharing for 40 years as we have witnessed our region's complex and changing relationship with coal - a focal point for understanding Appalachia's history and thinking about its future. Since our founding in 1969, Appalshop's mission has been to tell stories that aren't told by cultural industries and to support communities' efforts to achieve justice and equity. This is an important moment for our region and our nation to share these stories, and to help ensure that the national dialog around Appalachia's environment and economy represents the social, cultural, and economic diversity of the Appalachian region.
During the month of January, Appalshop will make web streams available for Sludge and The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man, two films which establish a context for this current crisis.