Monday, December 29, 2008

Few Answers About Toxic Spill In East Tennessee

Nearly a week after a massive toxic coal ash spill coated hundreds of acres and waterways with over a billion gallons of sludge, officials from TVA met with community members and activists and press reps to try and answer questions. TVA's CEO and President Tom Kilgore was there to answer questions.

One resident who has been blogging about the catastrophe here at Life on Swan Pond has details of the Q and A,

Water testing; testing started quickly, and continues every 2 hours. Other testing independently being done by EPA and others.

Air quality testing; only done at the TVA Plant. Will begin placing testing equipment in other areas soon... (no clear date/time set, and as I posted before they have not done any Air Quality Testing in locations where there is Ash debris.

Were there emergency plans in place: not for something of this magnitude of ash.

What is in the ash? Mr. Kilgore will have to research and post the results on TVA's website. (yet they sell this ash.. but don't know what's in it?)

What is the dangers of ash? Mr. Kilgore stated they have employees that work in it everyday.. but didn't say that those individuals wore protective gear.

A family that was directly impacted by loss of pasture lands spoke about the loss other their lively-hood and that they had not heard anything from TVA. Mr. Kilgore said they would help, buy hay, etc., and to contact TVA.

What are the dangers of the water for my dogs one resident asked.... after alot of avoiding the direct questions, the resident finally asked bluntly if he should keep his dogs away from the water... the answer was yes.

A family with an expectant mom who is 7 months pregnant asked if it was safe for her to be there... as they have the spill literally in their backyard... again.... no definitive answer. Come by the office if you have questions was often the answer given."

For most all of those in the area, real concerns remain. And if you are like me, you would want to leave the area immediately. When I'm told to "try not to breathe in" the airborne toxins in the environment, it means it is time to leave that area immediately. But how can people keep their jobs and protect their homes and property? And what sense does it make to stay and try and work around a toxic disaster in the hopes it will all work out for the best?

We've had lots of sunshine and fairly warm temps for the last week, which means that the ash will be drying quickly and getting into the air just as quick. So millions of cubic yards of cancer-causing particles will be on any surface that collects dust and dirt and in the air thousands of Tennesseans could be breathing.

If I lived there and had children, I would make them relocate - but what happens when schools in the area re-start in a few days? Livestock and wildlife and the ground and the water will be in harm's way for some time to come. With no clear answers yet on the levels of toxins - what to do? Stay and wait and find out later it is too toxic an area to stay in?

I read too that the EPA reports that many agencies are working on this disaster - "
Unified Command consists of EPA, the Roane County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), Tennessee EMA, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and the Tennessee Valley Authority."

But who is in charge at "Unified Command"? Someone from TVA? And where are the elected officials in Tennessee who are talking about this, pushing for answers and demanding actions be taken to insure safety? Kudos to the Kingston City Council for putting the meeting last night together. When Senator Bob Corker appeared on ABC Sunday morning, the disaster got a "sorry we are out of time" response.

And a hotline apparently became available today for residents -- a week after the event.

When something of this magnitude hits the response should be obvious - evacuate the residents and get everyone, even those in the outlying areas, to safety.

And since TVA has admitted they never had any plan for such a possible event as this, then elected officials and residents need to demand plans be created. If this were a commercial company, fines and firings and other changes would apply, would they not?

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