Looking Back: TVA’s Kingston Ash Spill Viewed From Space

If you’ve been reading us for a while, you probably know that we’ve kept a pretty close eye on the aftermath of the TVA’s Kingston ash spill back in December. The spill spread more than 1.1 billion gallons of sludge over nearly 300 acres of land, resulting in health problems, property loss, and massive environmental impact in Roane County. This morning, Twitter friend @shakieranthem brought this set of before-and-after NASA satellite photos to our attention showing the scope of the spill from outer space:

The Thematic Mapper on NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite captured these images of the Kingston Fossil Plant and its surroundings on November 20, 2008, a month before the spill (bottom), and December 22, 2008, immediately after the spill (top). In these false-color images, water appears blue, and sediment-laden water appears light blue. Vegetation appears green, and bare ground and urbanized areas appear pinkish-brown.

In the November image, walls visibly contain two adjacent slurry ponds at the plant—one in the northwest and one in the southeast—but in the December image, the walls of the northwestern slurry pond have given way. In this image, light blue slurry covers the ground to the north and east of the plant. Sediment also clogs the nearby Emory River, evident from the waterway’s relatively light blue color.

Images courtesy of NASA, mashed up by us.

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