Sludge in the River


Sometimes, things happen that cause us to pause and rethink how we do things. The energy crisis of the 1970’s and, more recently, the skyrocketing gas prices, had forced us to rethink energy use in vehicles. Hurricane Katrina forced us to rethink river levees, lake levees, and mandatory evacuation proceedures. 9/11 forced us to rethink security proceedures everywhere.

Within the last month, two incidents have happened that have caused a similar reaction. In late December, a power plant pond levee failed in eastern Tennessee, devastating a local community and polluting local land and water. Just this week, a smaller levee breach caused a small amount of sludge to be released close to the Tennessee River in northeast Alabama. As a result of the sludge release in both incidents, both the land and the water are being polluted with waste from power plants. And, in the incident in eastern Tennessee, there is a whole community whose houses are gone and whose lives are forever altered.

Now, what can be done? I doubt we will ever completely do away with waste from industrial, commercial, and even personal life. However, there are some things that we can do to minimize the impact of such events. First, do not live in an area that floods easily–floods carry any trash or pollutants downstream. Second, recycle what can be recycled and ensure all trash is properly secured–reducing, reusing, and recycling keeps waste out of landfills and securing trash minimizes the chances of trash being released someplace it should not be released. Third, ensure that eveything we have is in working order–anything not working properly can lead to accidents. Fourth, ensure that anything requiring special handling is disposed of in a proper manner–IMPROPER disposal by individuals of items is a leading cause of pollution.

Now, at the corporate level, there is absolutely nothing that the power plants could have done, in my opinion, that could have prevented these incidents. And, to their credit, the companies involved responded very quickly and are doing everything in their power to clean up and restore those areas affected. There is, unfortunately, no better way to deal with sludge at this time.

For the individuals whose lives and property were changed forever because of these incidents, I wish that they are able to put their lives back together and find a way to be whole again. I will keep them and their families in my prayers and pray for God to bless them mightily.

These sludge incidents should be a wake up call to all of us to protect and care for the world around us. It should also encourage us to help restore that world when things go wrong.

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