12-25-2008: Update from UMD

(Please post to any and all websites, blogs, and online news sources.)

Dear folks,

For most of my life Christmas morning was a time of hanging out in my pajamas, opening presents, eating really good food, and spending time with my family. This year was a little different. I spent Christmas in the man-made disaster that used to surround TVA’s Kingston Coal Burning Power Plant. Due to TVA’s negligence a HUGE coal ash pond exploded into the surrounding countryside dumping HUGE amounts of toxins into the local environment. I awoke around 9am to begin the day’s work. I was greeted by an online edition of a front page article in the New York Times which ran today covering this breaking news story. I was happy to see the article listed on the front page but I was dismayed to see that the writer had missed some of the most important information that we had offered. United Mountain Defense’s Volunteer Co-ordinator had spent nearly an hour on the phone yesterday getting the NYT up to speed on the issue and when I read the article there was no mention of United Mountain Defense or our Volunteer Co-ordinator.

The NYT got it wrong when they said, ” On Swan Pond Road, home to the residences nearest the plant, a group of environmental advocates went door to door telling residents that boiling their water, as officials had suggested, would not remove heavy metals.” At no time did we tell people that their water had heavy metals in it as we have not done any laboratory testing and have not seen any test results that claim otherwise. We merely suggested that other coal impacted citizens have had problems with their water and that heavy metals were found in other people’s water. The info that we have been passing out to the people is pasted below and is found in the above attachments.

Please we want national, international, and intergalactic media coverage on this issue, but we want to keep the facts straight.

So once I was able to lasso United Mountain Defense’s volunteer force away from their families during this holiday season we headed down to ground zero, Harriman TN. The time was nearly 1pm. TVA had promised everyone that they were so on top of it that they would continue to work through this holiday in order to fix the problem. The work that we observed TVA doing today was continuing to work to clear the railroad track. This is a necessity to TVA because if they can’t get more coal to the Kingston Coal Plant then they can’t produce more coal ash to dump on people’s front lawns. We also observed a trench being dug to place water pipes for a large water pump that was being brought in pump the Frost Hollow Spring water out of a local farmer’s backyard before it floods any more of his barn and threatens to flood his house. This farmer wanted to plant a garden in the fertile ground of the flood plain near the fresh water spring in about 4 months. After we gave him info about what may be in the coal waste he asked me if I would plant a garden on that coal waste floodplain. It was like a knife in my gut when I said I would not. He thanked me for my honesty.

After the work of the past three days delivering info, water, friendly smiles, and handshakes we began receiving phone calls from local residents who were confused, had questions, concerns, and were very mad about the destruction and disruption of their lives. We had an hour long meeting with a resident who feared the impacts to the property value of her house and property. She was concerned about the fact that selling her house would become practically impossible because who wanted to buy a house next to an industrial superfund site. I think this was a valid concern. She also understood that this was not going to be a problem that would be over in 4-6 weeks as TVA had originally told the media. As we chatted, the bigger picture began to unfold before her eyes that this problem would most likely persist for a decade or longer. She also informed us that her cat had vomited after drinking the tap water. No one in her neighborhood had received any notices that their drinking water was impacted by the spill. They had not received any notices to boil their water. She and her cats were now drinking bottled water. She also informed us that TVA had lied when they stated,” Every one of the affected residents has been contacted.” She had not been contacted by anyone from TVA, the water department, or the sheriff’s department. She lives within a mile radius of the disaster zone. As we continue to learn more we are seeing that this story is not an isolated one. TVA is a liar, liar with pants on fire!

As we have been traveling within the disaster zone we have encountered some residents who are very mad about the continued police presence at the entrances to their homes. These residents are shocked to see Independent Media making it through the check points when locals can’t make it through without showing identification and being interrogated. At the same time some of these residents want the media to be allowed through to help get the story out. The media just hasn’t been there for them. I assured them that Independent Media was on their side and was sharing their stories without divulging their identities unless they gave permission. This is what media solidarity looks like!

After our chat we set out to find the silt screens, Coast Guard, gravel berm, and live fish that TVA has been advertising as truths in the Emory River adjacent to the spill site. We launched a boat after witnessing three kayakers yesterday. To our surprise we were not chased down by the Coast Guard. We did not have to paddle over any silt fences. We did not have to portage over any gravel berms. We did not have to look hard to miss the fisherman or fish. Fortunately we took the digital video camera and captured almost an hour of spill footage from the river. The number of seagulls hanging out on the newly formed islands was incredible. Hopefully they were not scavenging any dead fish floating in the ash laden water. The water was very shallow in some parts. There was cream colored film floating on the water. At some times it looked like chocolate milk and may have been almost that thick. This ash was floating downstream unhindered as the current was strong enough to push our boat through the muck with some force at points. The flow was directed at the intake valves of the Kingston Water Utility. As we floated along we were trying to figure out where TVA would store all of this toxic waste. We figured out they were probably planning on storing a good portion of it in the bodies of Kingston residents. A few times while using the camera and framing the ash piles correctly it appeared as though we were looking at a twisted version grey version of the Bad Lands in South Dakota. While being surrounded by the oldest mountain range in the world we were floating amongst the youngest mountain range in the world. We named the highest peak Mt. Ash. We also gathered a sample of the ash using a paddle. As the sun set behind the Kingston Coal Plant Smoke Stacks we cleared the channel, packed up and headed home for the night.

Today has been a Christmas that I am not likely to ever forget. I didn’t get to stay in my pajamas but I got to help sharpen the stake that will non violently be driven through the heart of TVA. East Tennessee and Appalachia has always been a stronghold of revolutionary movements and I am proud to continue in that long history!!!!

Hey want to help???

  1. You need to begin sending requests to the Environmental Protection Agency, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, TVA, State of TN, Congressional Hearings, and anyone else you can think of to request public hearings. United Mountain Defense is mobilizing people here and they are plenty mad. We are ground truthing to provide accurate info to inform you, the public. We need your help in bringing the TVA criminals and their crimes into the light.
  2. United Mountain Defense needs money to purchase water for these coal impacted residents. On Dec 24, 2008 United Mountain Defense Volunteers passed out over 50 gallons of water to 30 households. We are going to deliver more water tomorrow. We are buying water at $1.39 a gallon at the local Krogers.
  3. United Mountain Defense needs general support funds as we are an all volunteer run organization. We mainly get funds from bake sales, spaghetti dinners, and dance/ house parties. Any funds you could send would be used for our valuable work only. United Mountain Defense is a 501c3 non-profit. You can read what we spend money on and we keep all receipts.

Alright, Thank you for your time.

Till then, Matt Landon Full time volunteer staff person United Mountain Defense

Contact 865 689 2778 or 865 257 4029

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