SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Coal Ash Stories Tour Engages Communities across Florida
Films Provide Call to Action on Coal Ash Contamination
Melissa Williams, Sierra Club, firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-545-0443
Amelia Shenstone, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Amelia@cleanenergy.org, 404-373-5832 x3
Peter Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance, email@example.com, 828-5820422
Rhiannon Fionn, Coal Ash Chronicles, firstname.lastname@example.org, 704-577-0817
January 21, 2016, Florida – Beginning Jan. 28, organizations across Florida will launch “Coal Ash Stories,” a statewide screening tour featuring four short documentary films focused on coal ash waste. The films expose public health concerns, related policy and community responses to this environmental crisis.
Below you’ll find the full schedule of film screenings being held in Sarasota, Tampa, Lakeland, Jacksonville and Pensacola. Each event – which will draw public and political attention to the toxic impact of coal ash on communities and public health – includes a discussion led by those who have worked on or are impacted by the coal ash issue in Florida. Rhiannon Fionn, a journalist and producer of the documentary-in-progress, “Coal Ash Chronicles,” will be in attendance at each of the screenings.
The four films featured in “Coal Ash Stories” are An Ill Wind, At What Cost?, Coal Ash Chronicles, and Downwind and Downstream. Collectively, they paint a grim picture of what life looks like in communities threatened by coal ash contamination. People are unable to drink their own water, take a bath, fish, or farm without worrying about long-term health effects. Similar fears are felt by communities located near coal-fired power plants in Florida.
Coal ash is what remains after coal is burned to generate electricity and can contain toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium, radioactive elements like strontium and other health-threatening substances that can spill or leak into our drinking water. In Florida there are 13 active coal-burning power plants and nearly 100 coal ash pits of which 37 percent are unlined, 80 percent lack a leachate collection system and even more are uncovered and unmonitored. Coal ash is particularly dangerous in Florida because the state’s porous geology and high water table can allow pollution from wastes stored in landfills and lagoons to spread rapidly. Simply dumping coal ash in these industrial waste pits is an outdated and dangerous disposal method.
“Coal ash threatens Florida’s public health and the environment and the state’s $82 billion a year tourism industry,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Peter Harrison. “Dangerous heavy metals found in coal ash can readily leach into water resources, and half of Florida’s coal plants have already contaminated rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. In other states, coal ash pits have given way, spilling tons of toxic waste into nearby rivers and neighborhoods,” Harrison said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s long awaited coal ash rule became effective in October 2015 and its Effluent Limitations Guidelines were updated in September 2015. Both rules are driving utilities throughout the nation to address the way they manage coal ash waste.
In Florida, concerns about the C.D. McIntosh coal-burning plant in Lakeland led community groups to deliver hundreds of petitions in December to the Lakeland City Commission calling for the retirement of the aging plant.
“Those signatures represent the growing concern in the Lakeland community about reliance on an expensive, outdated, climate disrupting coal plant for electricity generation,” said Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Florida. “We know from Lakeland’s own reporting that there’s already significant groundwater contamination from coal ash in Lakeland, and no safe barrier to prevent toxic metals like arsenic, mercury and selenium from seeping into people’s drinking water – and this problem continues.”
“Thanks to action from conservation groups, the coal ash at Gulf Power’s Scholz plant in northern Florida will be properly cleaned up away from our water,” said Amelia Shenstone with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). “With informed, engaged community members, we can achieve clean up at the rest of Florida’s coal plants.”
Thursday, January 28th, 7pm: Peace Education and Action Center
525 Kumquat Court, Sarasota, FL 34236
Hosted by: Suncoast Waterkeeper.
RSVP for the Sarasota screening here.
Friday, January 29th, 7pm: Seminole Heights Library
4711 N Central Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
Hosted by: Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club and Suncoast Waterkeeper.
RSVP for the Tampa screening here.
Saturday, January 30th, 7pm: Saint David’s Episcopal Church
145 East Edgewood Dr, Lakeland, FL 33803
Hosted by: The Beyond Coal Campaign and Saint David’s Episcopal Church.
RSVP for the Lakeland screening here.
Monday, February 1st, 6:30pm: The Sun-Ray Cinema
1028 Park St, Jacksonville, FL 32204
Hosted by: The St. Johns Riverkeeper and The Northeast Florida Sierra Club.
RSVP for the Jacksonville screening here.
Tuesday, February 2nd, 7:00pm: University of West Florida Auditorium
11000 University Parkway, Pensacola, FL 32514.
The Auditorium is in Building 22 – Park in Lot H, J or L.
Hosted by: Emerald Coastkeeper and Student Environmental Action Society.
RSVP for the Pensacola screening here.