KNOXVILLE, TN - Christmas came early this year to Tennessee residents living near a coal-fired power plant outside Knoxville, who found a little something extra under their trees: Five hundred million gallons of sludge laden with arsenic, mercury and benzene. Unappreciative residents have inundated the Tennessee Valley Authority with calls requesting receipts so they may return the unwanted gift. "Maybe they could just give us a break on our electric bill instead," said one resident. "Or a card would have been nice," she added.
"Talk about a bunch of ingrates! You know, it's been eight years since someone's gotten a gift like this," said TVA spokesman Gil Francis, referring to a similar incident in Kentucky. "I mean, this is a very, very generous offering of sludge. It's not exactly a last minute gift, you know. Do you have any idea how many years went into making this?"
The Environmental Protection Agency agrees. "This is a gift that will keep on giving. It will be around for months, and the effects from it will linger for years, perhaps even decades. What Christmas present have you ever received that lasted that long?"
Nevertheless, residents living directly beneath the six feet of sludge are concerned. They say that, although they are pleased the TVA was kind enough to think of them, the unwanted gift is actually causing some minor problems. Wilbur Hatfield complained, "It's hard to keep our heads up high enough to breathe, what with the house buried under all this muck, especially for the young-uns. I've been carryin' little Willie, Jr. around on my shoulders for two days now."
Wilbur's neighbor Lyle McCoy agrees. "I don't recall askin' for anything for Christmas, and then this shows up at the door. We shoulda never let it in, 'cause now we can't get rid of it. Plus, me and my brother Kyle went fishin' the other day, and didn't catch a thing - nothin' was bitin' 'cause they were all just floatin' at the top. I don't think they like it too much, neither."
Many say they doubt the intentions of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Earl Cohen isn't buying their story, complaining that, "First of all, I'm Jewish. I celebrate Hanukkah, and quite frankly, I find all this stuff they supposedly sent down the hill as a "Christmas gift" pretty offensive. But it's all just waste products from their plant anyway! I know it, they know it, and they'd better do something about it. They'd better clean up this mess and put it right back where it came from. I know what arsenic, benzene and mercury are, and believe you me, we've already got more than enough six-toed kids running around here."
With nearly everyone agreeing the Christmas fare some have likened to "black plum pudding" is not welcome, the TVA has reluctantly agreed to reclaim their offering. "These damned hicks just don't know a good thing when they see it. So, fine. If that's the way they want it, we'll never get them anything like this ever again. But you can sure bet their electricity bills are going to be higher from now on. That I'll guarantee."