Saturday, December 27, 2008

No One Could Have Anticipated...

... the breach of a dredge cell storage area that was “55 feet above the water level in the nearby ash pond.”

No one could anticipate the eventual breach of a dike that was shut down for repairs in 2003, then reopened three years ago. Says TVA manager Missy Hedgecoth:
"we were so well within what our stability analysis had shown (that) in our wildest dreams we couldn't have expected anything like this."

Not in your wildest dreams, Missy? Really?

Let the coverup begin.

We still don’t know the exact magnitude of the toxic sludge spill in East Tennessee. According to The Tennessean, TVA’s figures on the amount of sludge which spilled has shifted three times since Monday. Why is this? Shouldn’t TVA have known how full their ash pond was, considering it was “nearing the end of its design life”?

Meanwhile, dead fish litter yards and communities downstream. And hey, someone might want to make a video of that because TVA spokesman Gil Francis told the New York Times that "the T.V.A.’s environmental team had not encountered any dead fish.” Really? That’s amazing.

Here’s one for you:

Hey, here's another one:

And then there’s the lack of information given to residents. This is appalling:

On Swan Pond Road, home to the residences nearest the plant, a group of environmental advocates went door to door telling residents that boiling their water, as officials had suggested, would not remove heavy metals.

I can’t believe anyone would tell you it’s OK to drink this water if you boil it. This is not a sewage spill. This is toxic chemicals. You don’t boil away toxic chemicals like you do bacteria.

Finally, I don’t want to give undo credence to anonymous comments posted on news blogs, but this one from commenter “survivor5566,” a self-described retired TVA employee who worked in the section that inspected ash dikes, deserves some consideration:

From past experience I will tell you it was probably not the Fault of the coal yard local supervision. After hearing the people living near the dikes and saying that the gray material seeping through tells me TVA was well aware that a collapse was emanate [sic]. More than likely the local coal yard supervision had tried to convince TVA corporate that there was a real need of immediate attention.

As sometimes happens with TVA some corporate person sitting in Chattanooga or Knoxville that may have not even known what an ash pond looked like had made the call that this dike was OK and there was no need for concern. The money it would take to repair was needed in other areas of the power production. I know this from past experience.

Read the rest of his/her story, it will make you a believer.

I’m still appalled about the national news blackout over this story. I realize the news media got lots of heart-thumping footage of that water main break in Maryland, but there’s some pretty good footage of the sludge spill, too.

This is important because, as Rolling Stone reported earlier this month, President Bush is solidifying his unpopular legacy with a host of last-minute “midnight regulations”:

In early December, the administration finalized a rule that allows the industry to dump waste from mountaintop mining into neighboring streams and valleys, a practice opposed by the governors of both Tennessee and Kentucky.

"This makes it legal to use the most harmful coal-mining technology available," says Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A separate rule also relaxes air-pollution standards near national parks, allowing Big Coal to build plants next to some of America's most spectacular vistas — even though nine of 10 EPA regional administrators dissented from the rule or criticized it in writing.

Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this Kingston disaster, national parks are the perfect place to build coal-fired plants and the sludge ponds and ash pits that come with them.

The next time this happens, say in 10 years or so, and a sensitive national park is destroyed, perhaps in Texas or Arkansas, I don't want to hear some utility company manager profess her shock that “no one could have anticipated this would happen,” not even in their wildest dreams.

We've all anticipated it. You just didn't want to listen.