Bokoshe, OK and the True Cost of Electricity

Published 11 years ago - 6

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding hearings next week over whether to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste. To see why this is so important, check out this Voices of Oklahoma article from April 2009 about how coal ash is affecting the small Oklahoma town of Bokoshe. The hearing will be on Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 10:00am-9:30pm at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. Voices of Oklahoma will be there to report what happens.

Photo provided. A truck dumps a load of fly ash outside Bokoshe.
Photo provided. Fly ash escaping the dump site outside Bokoshe.

by Gene Perry

Bridget Wood describes her first visit to Bokoshe, OK as “the day that changed my life forever.”

At first glance, Bokoshe is just like any other small Oklahoma town. Its total area is only 0.5 square miles. The center of activity is a local cafe. As of the 2000 census, it was home to 450 people and 121 families, many of whom had lived there for generations.

But soon after arriving in Bokoshe, Wood suspected something was wrong. A gray dust hung over the town, covering vehicles and other exposed surfaces.

“You instantly have stuff in the corner of your eyes,” she said. “You can taste it. It tastes like a battery.”

On door after door, Wood saw “No Smoking, Oxygen In Use” signs.

She first came to Bokoshe to report on a proposal by the AES Corporation to expand its nearby coal power plant. AES already operates a 320 MW plant 7 miles east of Bokoshe, and the fly ash dump site for the plant is located just outside of town.

Fly ash is a light powder residue left over from the burning of coal. According to the EPA, it contains many toxic elements including arsenic, lead, mercury, uranium, and dioxins.

Disposal of fly ash is not federally regulated, although according to The New York Times, “numerous studies have shown that the ash can leach toxic substances that can cause cancer, birth defects and other health problems in humans.”

The True Cost of Electricity

In Bokoshe, Wood said she has met residents on their second or third bouts of cancer. She’s talked to people who have lost spouses and parents to cancer or kids to leukemia. Others suffer from asthma, congestive heart disease, or digestive problems.

“You have to look for somebody that’s not sick,” she said.

Bokoshe resident Harold Summers said in a video taken by Wood that 7 out of 11 of his neighbors have had cancer, including Summers’ wife, who died in 2007, and his granddaughter.

“The cost of electricity does not come in the form of your power bill,” Wood said. “It comes in the form of people’s lives.”

The EPA considered labeling fly ash as a hazardous waste in 2000 but backed off after the coal industry claimed it would be too expensive. Ironically, stricter air quality regulations have led to a dramatic increase in production of the ash in recent years. Pollutants that used to be emitted in smokestacks are now captured as solid waste.

“The cleaner that you burn it, the dirtier that fly ash is going to be,” Wood said.

For the AES Shady Point coal-fired plant, that waste is sent to Bokoshe at the rate of a truckload every 8-12 minutes. The ash is mixed with water and poured into a former coal mine managed by the M.M.H.F. (Making Money Having Fun) corporation.

But as seen in the video below, large clouds of ash frequently escape the site and head towards Bokoshe.

The video mentions a proposed Shady Point 2 coal plant, but AES withdrew its permit application in February amid rising criticism from Bokoshe residents and other groups. However, the dumping from the original plant continues.

Wood has collected dozens of testimonials from residents of Bokoshe and other fly ash dump sites. A couple are included below, and the rest can be found at

What Can You Do?

Until recently, the people of Bokoshe did not know about the toxins they were being exposed to in fly ash. Thanks to the efforts of Wood and others, many now understand the dangers, and they are organizing against them. They can be contacted through their website at

The next Oklahoma DEQ Air Quality meeting will be held 9 a.m., July 15th at 707 N. Robinson, Oklahoma City. The meeting is open to the public, and a strong showing can help convince regulators to investigate the problem.

“One of the reasons that they haven’t implemented restrictions is that no one has ever asked for them,” Wood said.

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6 thoughts on “Bokoshe, OK and the True Cost of Electricity

  • When my stepdaughters were young and visiting me from Pennsylvania, I wanted to buy them white summer things. They begged me not to waste my money as the coal ash where they lived turned their white things dingy, which they can never again get brightened. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I can see it in these videos. It’s got to go somewhere, not only Bokoshe, but in the atmosphere and around the world.

  • this is more reason than ever to insist that renewable energy – wind / solar be built. The coal plants must be closed as a matter of public safety.

  • ….shades of Tennessee …
    Kelly Hearn in Kingston, Tennessee
    for National Geographic News
    January 23, 2009

    It’s been called the Exxon Valdez of coal ash—a wakeup call for a fossil fuel industry.

    But the recent toxic ash spill in Tennessee is greater in scope than the 1989 oil spill, and despite what some conservationists are calling very real threats, the ash disaster has so far inspired apparently little concern for local wildlife.

    On December 22 a billion gallons of poisonous sludge—largely coal ash, a byproduct of coal burning—broke through an earthen dike at the Kingston Fossil Plant. The torrent half-buried area homes and elevated long-running health concerns over heavy metals in the ash.

  • I commend Bridgett Wood on her commitment to the truth and the needs of all human beings for a better chance at success. how can we hope to offer the next generation a better life when we kill the current generation because we worship the almighty dollar??? do you think those mine owners would EVER allow any member of their family to live next to a fly ash dump??? IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN BECAUSE THEY ARE WELL AWARE OF WHAT THEY ARE DOING TO THOSE “EXPENDABLE” PEOPLE. People have been mining coal for centuries and the knowledge of things like black lung should have precluded that any other human being would suffer the ill effects of being exposed to unclean fuel – but no, money is the mission and if we make enough money then we canpay the ones who live to sue off.

    This is why we are in a depression right now. Our corporate citizens do not care about the preservation of the american public, the american dream of equality and freedom, they are the slave owners of today’s society. They will tell you that you can afford a car payment that is half of your gross income, and then hope you default because they PROFIT from it!!! They will let you turn your car back in if you loose your job, but they dont tell you that the IRS considers debt write off as income, so you will have no job and a huge tax bill if you have to turn your car in. They will screw the american public to earn a buck – it has been shown REPEATEDLY. When are we going to stand up and say: you can not rape me or my land anymore; i would rather die trying to stop you, than allow this LIE to continue. my children are worth more to me than my current comfort or earnings. Animals do this all the time, what are we doing?

  • So few people viewed this. How do you get more people to view this. Especially our elected representatives? Please Publicize this on the local media. Get the message out!!

  • Publicizing might not do any good
    – look how many wells and cities have polluted drinking water since 1940, – same with adulterated dairy since then,
    – and the world’s largest chemical company spewing out over a million tons a day that goes into the food(ON PURPOSE) at the supermarket…
    (revealed by j.elohim) Use the YAH oo email address to reach me.
    – – all necessarily PROTECTED by the politicians (the people are ignored, the corporations are protected)…..
    what good will publicizing do??? the politicians cannot be elected nor stay in office unless they protect the industry. it is indeed a scary world, and only the Creator and only the Saviour Messiah Yahshua will help you and protect you personally (not thru any chruch)….

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