Environmentalists Bash TVA Coal Ash Plans, Extra Funding for Mobile County Schools

Mar 14, 2016

Tennessee Valley Authority headquarters, Knoxville, Tenn.

A coalition of environmental activists is sounding the alarm about a plan the Tennessee Valley Authority is considering for storing its coal ash.

The TVA is closing down existing coal ash pond storage facilities at 10 power plants.

One way the TVA is considering closing the ash ponds is to leave the existing ash in place, then drain and cover the ponds. The Southern Environmental Law Center and 10 other environmental groups are warning there is a danger that toxic chemicals at those sites near rivers in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama will leach into groundwater if left in place. The groups say it would be safer if TVA moved the ash into lined storage facilities.

A TVA spokesman says the agency has not made a decision yet on what to do. He says federal environmental officials advise either method of storage is safe if done properly.

School funding and jail renovation are on the to-do list for Mobile County officials.

The Mobile County Commission is set to meet at 10 a.m. this morning. One measure the Commission will consider is allocating $250,000 in ad valorem tax revenue to help various area schools fund educational priorities. More than a dozen schools will receive a portion of the funds.

Connie Hudson is the Mobile County Commissioner sponsoring the measure. She says a lot of that special funding will outfit Mobile-area schools with the latest technology.

“…things like smartboards and iPads. We really want to keep them on the cutting edge, as best we can, and it seems like many of them, their priority is to have the type of technology that is cutting-edge.”

The Mobile County Commission will also consider a measure to renovate the Mobile County Metro Jail. Law enforcement officials complain the 20-plus year old facility could be much more efficient.

Efforts are underway to turn Alabama’s Black Belt region into a tourist destination.

Organizers want to spotlight the area’s outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, and the Black Belt’s three Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail courses.

Pam Swanner is the director of the Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association. She says their goal is to not only generate an influx of new dollars for the community and state, but also to establish the Black Belt Region as a great place to vacation.

“We know that based on our web traffic and visitation to our website that we are making grounds that strides in building awareness of the Black Belt region as an outdoor destination.”

The association has partnered with the Retirement Systems of Alabama to create $4.6 million worth of advertising. The goal is to attract both Alabamians and tourists from other states to the Black Belt.

A movie theater in south Alabama often criticized for having subpar security has now joined a police surveillance program.

Wynnsong 16 in Mobile will be joining the Project Shield program. The cinema will join several other area businesses including Bel-Air Mall as part of the Mobile Police Department's surveillance system program.

The Mobile Police Department made the announcement late last week. The Wynnsong theater agreed to join the new partnership between the private sector and police that allows authorities access to live security camera feeds.

Since Project Shield's inception last year, Mobile police have been able to gain access to more than 3,600 additional surveillance and security cameras across the city.