Undergraduate Research Center

Alex Blackwelder

Creative Project:
A Portrait of a Family's Struggle After TVA's Kingston Fly Ash Spill

Alex Blackwelder, Electronic Media Communication, URSCA Scholar;

Mentor: Tom Strawman

In December 2008, Roane County, TN was devastated by the spilling of 1.1 billion gallons of coal fly ash from a containment pond at TVA's Kingston Fossil Power Plant. This multimedia project follows affected resident Penny Dodson as she copes with the obstacles she faces after the incident. Her grandson who is in her custody, Evyn Davis, became ill from living in his home near the spill site. The coal fly ash, which contains heavy metals, irritated his lungs after he inhaled it. 18- month old Evyn also lives with cerebral palsy and multiple other illnesses. Evyn and Penny cannot return home until the spill is cleaned up, which is estimated to take years. As a photojournalist, I documented Penny and Evyn's life after the disaster. The multimedia project allows those who view it to more completely understand the human impact of the coal fly ash spill, and to hear the stories from those who have been affected. Traditional news outlets allow viewers a small peak into individual stories, but this project hopes to give a more in-depth look into how this incident has affected the rural community.