Reviews | On a disappearing river, another toxic disaster awaits

In better news, the Environmental Protection Agency announced this year that it was finally starting to take the protection of groundwater from contamination by coal ash seriously – a move that has been greeted with cautious optimism by groups. environmental. “It was great to see,” Cade Kistler, a full-time advocate with the nonprofit Mobile Baykeeper, said in a phone interview last week. “This clearly shows that Alabama Power’s plan is illegal under the EPA rule because it will leave coal ash in the groundwater. And that pollution is going to continue for generations if they go from the forward with this plane to cap it in place.

Nonetheless, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management — which has a long history of taking sides with industry on the environment — has already approved the capping plan in place, according to Kistler. . “This clarification from the EPA should force them to move the coal ash. It’s just a matter of how long it will take the EPA to push Alabama back.

The fact that the Mobile River just made it to American Rivers’ most endangered species list could bring even greater scrutiny of the atomic bomb to the riverbank, Kistler said. “We hope the list will make more people aware of the extreme dangerousness and short-sightedness of Alabama Power’s plan. Across the Southeast, utilities are moving 250 million tons of coal ash away from their coastal sites, where hurricanes and rising sea levels pose such a threat. Alabama’s citizens and environment deserve the same protection.

I have never been on an oyster boat in Mobile Bay where generations of families have made a living. I have never visited nearby Africatown, a community founded by some of the people who were smuggled into Alabama on the Clotilda, the last ship to bring enslaved Africans to this country, a ship that now sits at the bottom of the Mobile River. I don’t belong to any of the human communities that would be devastated if the earthen dam that keeps Alabama Power’s coal ash out of the Mobile River ever collapses.

But I have been in the American Amazon, as the Delta Mobile-Tensaw is called. I heard the calls of the songbirds and saw the ospreys fishing. I fell under the spell of the intoxicating American lotus in full bloom, and I can hardly bear the thought that one of these treasures, human and environmental, could be in such great danger.

I called Mr. Meador, who no longer does public tours of the delta. I wanted to ask him how he felt seeing the Mobile River on a list of the 10 most endangered rivers in America. “You know, I grew up in Mobile Bay when the water was so clear, and now the water is never clear,” he said. “All of this is really sad for me. We have already lost so much.

Opinion writer Margaret Renkl is the author of Graceland, at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South and Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.

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