EPA Says TVA Fly Ash Cleanup Will Finish Up Next Spring

Six months have passed since the catastrophic December 22 <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Tennessee_Fly_Ash_Spill">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill that dumped a devastating 5.4 million cubic yards—over one billion gallons—of coal sludge into Tennessee’s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding its Kingston plant. Now, reports WBIR, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—now in charge of the cleanup—says ash will be removed from the Emory River by next spring. Dredging is underway.

Leo Francendese, the EPA On-Scene Coordinator who began handling the cleanup early last month, said he will continue with cleanup efforts until all of the ash is removed from the Emory River, at which time another coordinator will come in to handle ash that did not enter the water, said WBIR. Francendese told 10News, “I sincerely believe spring 2010 is doable and maybe we can shave even more time off of that,” explaining that crews dredge over 7,000 cubic yards of ash from the Emory daily and he expects that to increase shortly to more than double at 15,000 cubic yards daily, said WBIR. When Francendese took over last month, the TVA was dredging about 1,000 cubic yards daily, noted WBIR.

The investigation into the cause of the historic spill continues and, according to the contractor in charge of the probe, findings should be completed within a month, reported WBIR.

Meanwhile, lives and homes have been decimated. “Eventually I’ll become used to the fact this has happened, but I’ll never get over it,” said Crystell Flinn, a former resident whose home was pushed off of its foundation into the street when the mountain of ash was released, said WBIR. Jim Schean, Crystell’s husband, has settled with the TVA and bought a new home, but Flinn discussed the lingering effects of the trauma the family endured, “This feels exactly like someone has died. And I guess it basically has. My lifestyle has pretty much died because our life was on that water,” quoted WBIR.

Since the spill, attention has been focused on coal ash facility health hazards and emergency response protocols. A lack of the mandatory emergency response protocols allegedly adversely affected delivery of critical information. According to Roane County’s emergency management director, Howie Rose, key decisions were delayed because of the time it took the TVA to provide meaningful information regarding fly ash and the pond’s structure, causing estimated 12-hour delays over decisions regarding evacuation orders and “health, safety, and environmental concerns,” said KnoxvilleBiz previously.

We recently wrote that the Environment News Service reported there are 44 coal combustion waste sites nationwide that have been identified as a “high hazard” by the EPA. Since the spill, the EPA inspected coal combustion sites nationwide, including 44 found to pose a “high hazard,” said the Environmental News Service, explaining that if these coal ash ponds fail, they would pose a threat to nearby residents.

Last month we wrote that information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, citing a report by EnvironmentalIntegrity.org. Apparently, the 2002 EPA Risk Screening Report was only finally released in 2009 after President Barack Obama and his administration took office, said Environmental Integrity.

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