Resource Loss and Psychosocial Stress in the Aftermath of the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority Coal Ash Spill

August 2018 (VOL. 36, NO. 2)

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The 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant impoundment failure resulted in one of most significant industrial accidents of its kind in U.S. history. Based on data from a 2011 household survey of 1,840 residents of Roane County where the spill occurred and nearby Anderson County (a comparison community), Tennessee, we examine disaster-related psychosocial stress as measured by the Impact of Event Scale. We frame our findings using the Conservation of Resources (COR) model. The strongest contributors to spill-related stress were resource loss and threat of loss, as well as increased perceptions of risk that were connected to experience with the spill; beliefs about economic and environmental impacts; concerns about health; and perceived social disruption. Regression analyses reveal that effects of the spill transcend county of residence. These findings reinforce the relevance of the COR model for understanding that these losses, as well as threat of loss, to objects, conditions, personal characteristics, and energy resources contribute to disaster-related stress.