It All Began With a Roadtrip
Coal Ash Chronicles began in the fall of 2011 after Rhiannon Fionn traveled with a group of citizens to Washington D.C. They were on a mission to educate their Congressional representatives about coal ash and how it's affecting their communities.
Since then, Rhiannon has put about 60,000 miles on her car as she's traveled the country -- even driving to Alaska! -- in an attempt to collect coal ash stories from all sides of the issue, including industry, government, citizens, and academics. Here is a glimpse of some of the stories they've shared:
Coal ash is what remains after coal is burned to generate electricity. It's a waste product, coal trash if you will, and it is comprised of heavy metals and radioactive elements.
At many coal plants, to keep the tr/ash out of the air it's watered down and pumped into slurry ponds that are usually on the edge of a river or lake.
Problem is, the ponds can fail (see the 2008 TVA disaster), they can leak, and there are many confirmed cases of ground- and surface water contamination across the country. Worse, many citizens blame coal ash for their illnesses and even for the deaths of their friends and family.
There are other options. The ash can be stored dry, sold by power companies, and used as an ingredient in products such as concrete and asphalt that encapsulate the ash.
The Coal Ash Chronicles film crew, which now consists of about 20 contributors and volunteers, aims to tell the whole story of coal ash, connecting the dots and lifting the voices of those who otherwise may not be heard.
We've taken on this massive task because people deserve to know what's in their water and air, what their options are, and because this is exactly the type of story that journalism is meant to shine light upon.
Our ultimate goal is to share information with the people of the U.S. so they can make wise decisions about how coal ash should be dealt with: Is it a hazardous waste? Does it present a real recycling opportunity? What should be done with all of the slurry ponds? And what about the people who are ill?
What We've Discovered
The coal ash issue is huge, and it affects every state in the Union -- even those that don't have coal plants.
We've also learned that the coal-burning industry is spending large amounts of money lobbying Congress and state legislatures in an effort to prevent cleanup of contaminated coal ash sites and waterways. The beneficial reuse industry -- those who use coal ash as an ingredient in their products -- worry that any regulation will harm their bottom line. Environmentalists want the contamination cleaned up, like, yesterday. And those who are ill don't seem to be getting any better. In fact, two of the people we interviewed in Alaska have already passed away, and one of their friends did, too.
The issue seems to be galvanizing people around the nation.
As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stalls and Congress works to keep the EPA stalled, citizens around the country have banded together to watchdog the issue locally and federally. At the same time, scientists and industry have found ways to encapsulate coal ash in products like concrete that could actually lower CO2 emissions usually released in the concrete production process.
But is that a long-term solution? That's one of the questions we aim to answer in the film.
We need your help!
Producing a film is expensive. So is traveling the country for years without pay.
So far, the project has been self-funded, mostly by Rhiannon thanks to a car insurance settlement and tax refunds. The contributors and volunteers have also paid for their own expenses thus far.
The team compiled a list of their needs to finish the project, which includes things such as stipends, production insurance, equipment, software, attorney's fees, sound-correction and more. We've also got to fill some gaps in our coverage and re-shoot some coverage, which means travel expenses.
We need $50,000 to push this project forward to the next step, which will be the creation of an official trailer for the film that will be shared with potential distributors, grant makers and film festivals.
Know that the total of our needs list came to $170,000, so we're actually hoping to blow past our critical needs and raise money to cover some of our less-critical, but still important, production costs like hiring a production assistant, a graphics artist, and paying our film editor, Nell Carden Grey, so she can work on the film on a full-time basis.
In exchange for your support, we will send you a "perk" you can't get elsewhere, like a chance to hang out with the Coal Ash Chronicles team and a limited edition poster featuring Rhiannon dressed up as the "Queen of Coal Ash," a title bestowed upon her by the Sierra Club in Charlotte, N.C.
Or if you've a hankering to see your name in the credits and also happen to have a fat wallet, you can give us a big push.
The people behind this project are simply attempting to do what's right, though we realize that by making a movie about a hot-topic issue like coal ash there is the potential to shape the conversation by way of raising awareness of the issue.
Other Ways You Can Help
If you you don't have any money to spare that doesn't mean you can't help us reach our campaign goal.
Please share the link to this campaign far and wide via e-mail and social media. The more the link is shared, the more likely it is that this campaign will end up in IndieGoGo's newsletter and on its front page ... both of which get a lot of eyeballs, so being featured will help us reach our goals.