12-26-2008: Update from UMD

Today I awoke to a phone call. The kind progressive people of Roane County, TN had allowed me to post to their RoaneViews.com community forum last night. I was delighted to get a phone call and an offer of a work space in the area surrounding TVA’s ash spill area. The local resident was so inspired by the ground truthing, outreach, and daily reports that United Mountain Defense was delivering that we were granted rent free use of the property. For this we are truly grateful.

Check out http://www.roaneviews.com/

After some frantic calls from national media wanting to shoot video footage of birds flapping around in coal sludge/ oil??????? United Mountain Defense volunteers headed out into the field for day 5 of the TVA coal ash spill. Upon meeting the first road block we were ushered into the Media Corral and informed that all roads were closed to anyone who was not a resident or related to a resident, especially media. We were informed that a lieutenant would be by shortly to give us more information about traveling beyond the road block. As United Mountain Defense and Independent Media volunteers took video of the roadblock we were informed that we were interfering with the officer’s work by distracting him and needed to move back to the Media Corral. Of course we were compliant.

As we headed back to the Media Corral we saw two local residents who we had met during the previous 4 days. The elderly lady and her daughter were carrying heavy bags of groceries back from the Kroger’s which was about 1/2 mile from the TVA roadblock. As they neared the roadblock, United Mountain Defense volunteers asked if they would like to have a ride on this overcast drizzly day. Of course they were happy for the chance to have a ride as it was probably nearly a mile down to their property. We cleared the back seats while the TVA officer overlooked and proceeded to drive back through the roadblock with locals in our car. Unfortunately this officer was on to us and stated that we could not get away with such shenanigans. He ordered us back to the Media Corral. The women sighed, picked up their heavy grocery bags and walked out into the cold drizzle back to their home.

The United Mountain Defense volunteers decided that TVA’s Media Corral had not delivered all of the things it promised. We saddled up and headed out. The back entrance to the TVA’s coal ash spill provided more panoramic shots of oozing sludge.

We drove around the back side of the spill area. This area provides views of the coal ash spill as far as the eye can see. We pulled to a stop to take some video and still shots of a handmade sign reading “Clean Coal?” that someone had tied to a tree near the spill. United Mountain Defense volunteers were informed by an overworked, underpaid, and stressed TVA employee that we were trespassing and could not take pictures from this spot. Of course we were compliant with this employee’s demands and proceeded to pull back onto the roadway and continue on our way. By the time that we reached the next road block the TVA employee pulled up next to our vehicle and informed the Kingston Police officer that we had obstructed traffic and trespassed on TVA property and we needed to be arrested. We were informed to pull over and wait to be arrested for taking photographs. Fortunately we pulled right next to a local news crew that was filming the increased police pressure on local residents and the effects this pressure was having on residents that had been through this TVA disaster. We were immediately interviewed at which point we explained who we were and what we were doing, testing water and taking photos. Personally I think it helped having the corporate media covering the story as it was happening to fellow journalists.

As the United Mountain Defense volunteers sat waiting for our citations we were documenting the whole event. We observed many local coal impacted residents being forced to justify who they were and where they lived before being allowed to enter their homes. This treatment of local residents adds a heavy burden to a serious situation. A number of residents feel that they are being treated as criminals when TVA has actually committed the crime of polluting the water, air, and land of Tennessee.

After more than an hour of being detained by a Kingston Police officer we were ordered to leave the area and not return without being arrested. As we were pulling away from the roadblock we were stopped once again by the overworked, stressed TVA employee. He said, “You have a tape of me and if I see that tape anywhere….Look in my eyes….You know….You know….” This employee’s comment caught me off guard in an unfamiliar way. Upon reflection I think that the TVA employee was overworked and scared to lose his job. We are not here to attack individual TVA employees. The TVA Executives are the ones who should be held accountable for the coal ash spill and the resulting destruction to waterways and possible health impacts to local residents.

Here is another account from a group of United Mountain Defense volunteers who were delivering water to residents of Swan Pond Rd.

“We went down to the TVA disaster site (fly ash coal spill) and were waved through the blockade by a TVA officer. As we drove down a residential street 4 United Mountain Defense volunteers started to deliver water to a list of people whom we gave water to two days earlier while one volunteer stayed with the car. Soon after we started passing out the water 3 carloads of TVA police officers came up and saw what we were doing, and started to tell us we had no right to deliver water to these people. We told them that we had talked to a TVA Displaced Resident Hotline representative, and they said, “TVA has told everybody the water just needed to be boiled. And unless their water was turned off, TVA would not pay for or bring these people water.” The TVA police informed us that TVA has been delivering water. We had talked to some coal impacted citizens that said that was true but others said it was not true and that, “TVA has to this day never said anything to them personally.” The TVA officers proceeded to gather the United Mountain Defense volunteer’s personal information and everybody’s pictures as if we were some major suspects of some kind. They did scare some of us, and I must say I was a little uncomfortable about the whole thing. We asked the TVA police why we could not deliver water to the people that needed it. They said looting was a concern. When asked if there had been any looting the TVA police said NO. Then they escorted us out.”

We understand that controlling the movement of the general public could be an important concern for TVA to address, but we think that the real issue is the destruction of the water by TVA’s coal ash spill.

I also just learned that the Kingston City Council will hold an emergency meeting. The following came directly from RoaneViews.com “Councilman Kevin McClure and Councilman Brant Williams have extended an invitation to all who are concerned about the impact of the TVA fly ash spill to attend the emergency City Council meeting on Sunday 12/28 at 4:30pm at the Kingston City Community Center. At this meeting the City of Kingston will begin the process of formulating its official reaction and response to the massive TVA fly ash spill. All concerned citizens should attend. Everyone who wishes to speak or comment will have that opportunity. We cannot place enough emphasis on how vital public input will be in helping us [the City Council] to understand the nature and full magnitude of this disaster. No one in Kingston, on City Council, TVA, or for that matter the State can claim to know what to do. We must be diligent and vocal, in order to retain our voice in the formulation of a reclamation/recovery plan. This will be a laborious and costly process. There will be good news and bad; great progress as well as disappointing delays. However, one thing is certain. We simply cannot sit back and allow those with vested interests in minimizing the public perception of the impact of this spill to dictate the clean-up and reparation process.”

ALRIGHT! I actually have some good media work to report on. It appears that NPR has reported finding some handmade signs posted around the spill area that read “Clean Coal ?” It appears that there is local resistance to TVA’s lies. A United Mountain Defense volunteer just did an interview with the NPR reporter. Look for the story Sunday on Morning Edition.

If you are out there in cyber world please understand that the volunteers of United Mountain Defense are not trained medical professionals. We are not lawyers. We need help at this point. As you can read from the above accounts it is getting more difficult to obtain access to the disaster area so having more people on the ground here will only make this problem worse at this point. Please fundraise from where you live. United Mountain Defense has been on the ground since day 1 and we will continue to be on the ground. Today we plan to deliver more information which we received from the Forward Township, PA which had a similar coal ash spill. We are gathering more water samples. We have heavy metal water testing equipment on site. We will continue to share info for the world about what is happening on the ground here in Harriman, TN.

If you want to help us please raise money. We just spent $32 on copies to distribute to coal impacted residents. We are keeping our receipts and making any money you send stretch as far as possible. Thank you for the donations of time and money. United Mountain Defense is an all volunteer run organization.

Please contact us at 865 689 2778 or 865 257 4029.

Check out our website at www.unitedmountaindefense.org

Thanks, Matt Landon full time volunteer staff person for United Mountain Defense

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