Thursday, August 26, 2010

Raven, R.I.P.

Our extended family lost an important and beloved member this week. Raven, who had been with us since around 1997, when she already was fully grown, died overnight between Sunday and Monday. She was buried Monday under a tree in a field where she loved to roam. Raven was a good watchdog, and she was one of the two smartest dogs I've ever known.
A couple of decades ago, I heard someone ask if dogs would be in heaven. My first thought was, why would they? Having known Raven and a very few other dogs, my first thought now is, why wouldn't they? I hope Raven has been reunited with one of her former owners, following along as he rides his ATV through the fields and woods of their new home. I normally don't like other people's dogs -- they're okay, but I'm not a dog person -- but some force me to make an exception. Raven was one.

Pollution from power plants' solid waste

Before I lost my job as a newspaper writer and editor, I was about to work on a series of articles about coal ash. For a while I had wondered about the landfills and other places where solid waste from burning coal was stored. A lot of talk and effort had gone into air pollution and water pollution, including thermal pollution, but I had heard very little about the ash and sludge that was stored on or near power plant sites. I live just outside Huntington, West Virginia, and there are a number of coal-burning power plants within, say, a hundred miles of here. Some are old; some are new. Some big, some small.

I looked at power plants using Google Earth to get an idea of the size of these ash disposal fields and the sludge landfills. I had also made contact with one power company to visit one or two of these places to see what was going on.

Then came the TVA spill, and the problem became visible.

But my employer was having cash flow problems, and the owner decided he needed a second person to cover college football more than he needed someone who could look into questions such as this, so my job was eliminated.

But I've still wondered about it.

Today this news release hit the Internet:

WASHINGTON, D.C.//August 26, 2010//Days before the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) kicks off a series of regional hearings across the United States on whether and how to regulate toxic coal ash waste from coal-fired pow er plants, a major new study identifies 39 additional coal-ash dump sites in 21 states that are contaminating drinking water or surface water with arsenic and other heavy metals.  The report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Earthjustice and the Sierra Club documents the fact that state governments are not adequately monitoring the coal combustion waste (CCW) disposal sites and that the USEPA needs to enact strong new regulations to protect the public.   

Among the sites on the list were the Cardinal and Gavin plants along the Ohio River in Ohio.

Now, I admit I don't know much about all the groups that released this report. And I'm nowhere near qualified to delve into the entire report and give an educated opinion today or tonight. But sooner or later, it would seem the question of what happens to these ash piles and such is addressed. Or perhaps not. They're so big, and any damage -- repeat, any damage, if any -- that has happened may be irreversible. That's a question for experts to answer, and one that will take some serious research on the part of someone like me while the experts on all sides of this issue prepare for the coming debate.

W.P. Snyder Jr. going home soon

It looks like the sternwheel towboat W.P. Snyder Jr. will leave its repair dock at South Point, Ohio, on Sept. 16 and arrive at its home dock at Marietta, Ohio, the next day, according to an article in The Marietta Times .