On his Myspace page, "Friend of Coal" professional Bass fisherman Jeremy Starks says this about "clean coal":
When I talk to groups in West Virginia I tell them something that not everyone in my state gets. I tell them that the water around active and abandoned coal mines is almost always some of the cleanest, healthiest flowing water you'll find. And the fishing around mine sites is fantastic. That's actually the reason I asked the Friends of Coal to be my main sponsor.
In West Virginia, billboards featuring Starks line the interstate highways, reading "Clean Water, Clean Coal and Wild Wonderful West Virginia."
In the wake of the TVA coal ash disaster in Kingston, Tennessee, which released over 1 billion gallons of toxic coal waste into the Clinch and Emory Rivers, citizens group United Mountain Defense (UMD) has offered an official invitation to Mr. Starks to come to Kingston to see the disaster with his own eyes.
"We'd like Mr. Starks to come to Tennessee and see for himself that there is nothing 'clean' about coal. This TVA coal ash disaster has not only killed millions of fish, it has polluted the water supply for thousands of people," said Tanya Turner, a representative for UMD.
"Bring your fishing pole to Tennessee, Mr. Starks," said UMD member Matt Landon. "You won't be catching any fish, but you might need it to fend off TVA security if you try and get near the site of the spill. And bring a haz-mat suit too."
"The Roane County community has been devastated by the TVA spill," said UMD board member Bonnie Swinford. "It's not just the fish -- people's lives have been turned upside down by this coal disaster. It's sad that Mr. Starks acts as a paid spokesperson for the coal industry, telling the public that clean water and coal go hand in hand. There's no such thing as clean coal. We need Mr. Starks to tell the truth about dirty coal and dirty water."
The TVA disaster -- over 100 times larger than the 12-million gallon Exxon Valdez spill -- is considered by environmentalists to be the world's worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl.
On Dec 22, 2008, a retaining wall around a 65-foot high impoundment of coal ash from a TVA power plant failed suddenly, sending a tidal wave of ashy sludge into the Clinch and Emory Rivers, and destroyed several homes. Scientists have found high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals in the river following the spill. TVA initially claimed that the coal ash was "mostly inert" and estimated clean-up time at 6 to 8 weeks. After over 6 months of digging, less than 10 percent of the coal ash has been removed, and cleanup costs are now estimated to exceed $1 billion.
Shortly after the spill, experts kayaked around the ash spill to document the effects on fish and water quality. The kayak trip, dead fish and subsequent lab tests showing high levels of toxic heavy metals in the rivers were documented in on-line videos.
After testing water samples in the Clinch and Emory Rivers, Dr. Shea Tuberty, Assistant Professor of Biology at the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Lab at Appalachian State University stated "I've never seen levels this high. These levels would knock out fish reproduction ... the ecosystems around Kingston and Harriman are going to be in trouble ... maybe for generations."
A report by Dr. Avner Vengosh, associate professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, who analyzed water and ash samples from the TVA disaster site, concludes that "exposure to radium- and arsenic-containing particulates in the ash could have severe health implications" in the affected areas.
The "Clean Coal, Clean Water" billboard images of Jeremy Starks can be seen here on the website of Walker CAT, a heavy equipment dealer in West Virginia that sells mining machinery to coal companies.
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