Following the devastating December 22 <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Tennessee_Fly_Ash_Spill">Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fly ash spill, attention has been focused on the health hazards of coal ash facilities and emergency response protocols. A lack of the mandatory emergency response protocols adversely affected delivery of critical information and cost the TVA $510,000 for a contractor knowledgeable with appropriate procedures, said KnoxvilleBiz.com, citing a just-released Inspector General’s report. The Inspector General is an independent TVA watchdog.
The catastrophic spill dumped a massive 5.4 million cubic yardsâ€”over one billion gallonsâ€”of coal sludge into Tennesseeâ€™s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding its Kingston plant. Now, the Inspector General’s report states that the utilityâ€™s key executivesâ€”those responsible for emergency responseâ€”were unable to speak â€œemergency response language,â€ and, instead Googled for universal terms and concepts required in such situations, said KnoxvilleBiz.
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is a required under a presidential Homeland Security directive and mandates â€œuniversal response protocols and language,â€ such as â€œcommon speechâ€ and not â€œcodes or jargon,â€ said KnoxvilleBiz. The report stated, “TVA’s lack of familiarity with NIMS terminology and concepts was an obstacle.â€ The report also noted that the TVA damaged its reputation by its release of “inaccurate and inconsistent information” immediately following the accident, such as massively understating the spillâ€™s size and minimizing the spillâ€™s damage. Citing the report, “The test for TVA press releases should be, ‘Is it the transparent truth?â€™â€ quoted KnoxvilleBiz.
According to Roane County’s emergency management director, Howie Rose, key decisions were delayed because of the time it took
TVA to provide meaningful information regarding fly ash and the pondâ€™s structure, causing estimated 12-hour delays over decisions regarding evacuation orders and â€œhealth, safety, and environmental concerns,â€ said KnoxvilleBiz.
Just after the spill, the consultant was brought in to implement NIMS at a cost of over a-half million dollars, said KnoxvilleBiz, noting that the consultant worked from December 25 until January 12, citing the report.
Meanwhile, we recently wrote that the Environment News Service reported there are 44 coal combustion waste sites nationwide that have been identified as a â€œhigh hazardâ€ by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Interestingly, according to Senator Barbara Boxer, the EPA cannot disclose the location of these hazardous sites, reported the Environmental News Service. Senator Boxer is chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the EPA. Since the spill, the EPA inspected coal combustion sites nationwide, including 44 found to pose a â€œhigh hazard,â€ said the Environmental News Service, explaining that if these coal ash ponds fail, they would pose a threat to nearby residents.
We reported last month that information pointing to â€œsignificantly higher cancer risksâ€ for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was 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.