August 19, 2022
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Opinion | On an Endangered River, One other Poisonous Catastrophe Is Ready to Occur


In higher information, the Environmental Safety Company introduced this 12 months that it was lastly getting severe about defending groundwater from coal ash contamination — a transfer that was greeted with cautious optimism by environmental teams. “That was nice to see,” stated Cade Kistler, a full-time advocate for the nonprofit Cell Baykeeper, in a telephone interview final week. “It makes it crystal clear that Alabama Energy’s plan is illegitimate underneath the E.P.A.’s rule as a result of it would go away coal ash in groundwater. And that air pollution goes to proceed for generations in the event that they transfer ahead with this plan to cap it in place.”

Nonetheless, the Alabama Division of Environmental Administration — which has an extended historical past of siding with trade over the atmosphere — has already authorised the cap-in-place plan, in keeping with Mr. Kistler. “This clarification from the E.P.A. ought to pressure them to maneuver the coal ash. It’s only a matter of how lengthy it’s going to take the E.P.A. to push again on Alabama.”

The truth that the Cell River has simply made American Rivers’ most-endangered checklist could convey much more scrutiny to the A-bomb on the riverbank, Mr. Kistler stated. “We’re hopeful that the checklist will make extra individuals conscious of the intense hazard and shortsightedness of Alabama Energy’s plan. Throughout the Southeast, utilities are shifting 250 million tons of coal ash away from their coastal websites, the place hurricanes and sea-level rise pose such a menace. The residents and atmosphere of Alabama deserve the identical safety.”

I’ve by no means been on an oyster boat in Cell Bay, the place generations of households have made their livelihoods. I’ve by no means visited close by Africatown, a group based by among the individuals who had been smuggled into Alabama on the Clotilda, the final ship to convey enslaved Africans into this nation, a ship that now lies on the backside of the Cell River. I don’t belong to any of the human communities that might be devastated if the earthen dam retaining Alabama Energy’s coal ash out of the Cell River ever collapses.

However I’ve been within the American Amazon, because the Cell-Tensaw Delta is understood. I’ve heard the songbirds calling, and I’ve seen the ospreys fishing. I’ve fallen underneath the spell of the intoxicating American lotus in full bloom, and I can hardly bear to suppose that any of those treasures, human and environmental, may very well be in such hazard.

I known as up Mr. Meador, who’s now not giving public excursions of the delta. I needed to ask how he feels about seeing the Cell River on a top-10 checklist of America’s endangered rivers. “You understand, I grew up on Cell Bay when the water was so clear, and now the water is rarely clear,” he stated. “The entire thing is simply actually unhappy to me. We’ve already misplaced a lot.”

Margaret Renkl, a contributing Opinion author, is the creator of the books “Graceland, at Final: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South” and “Late Migrations: A Pure Historical past of Love and Loss.”

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