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Archive for December, 2008

Photos from the Kingston Fly Ash Spill

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Thanks to Steve Scarborough for these amazing photos of the fly ash spill in Kingston.  Steve has been on the scene since the beginning and has great insight on what is going on.

Initial Thoughts on TVA Coal Ash Spill

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008


I just returned to San Jose, Costa Rica, from spending time in Monteverde to discover that on Dec. 22, one of the most devastating environmental disasters in Tennessee´s history occurred.  I´ve been following the online media from here and I am shocked at what the coverage reveals.

This problem is going to take years to fix.  The Network is committed to helping the community get what they need to have clean water and a healthy community.  We´ll be in it for the long haul and you can follow it here on our blog site.

More to come.


Water is “safe” at TVA fly ash spill site??

Monday, December 29th, 2008

As a water quality policy person even I am unsure what EPA, TVA, TDEC, and other state and federal groups mean when they say the water is safe at the site of last week’s fly ash spill.  Safe for whom or what?  Safe to drink?  Safe to swim in?  Safe for the mussels or other aqautic life?  Safe for fishing?  In an apparent effort to quell the fears of residents the reports of water quality testing are vague and inadequate to fully detail the impact of this disaster on our water quality, aquatic life, and land use. 

The reports released thus far have had conflicting messages.  Just yesterday EPA released information stating there are high levels of aresenic in the area of the spill as well as heavy metal levels exceeding drinking water standards.  Is this safe?  The two streams directly affected by this contamination already suffer water quality impairments from mercury, PCBs, and chlordane.  How are these impaired water bodies able to dissipate the intense amount of added pollutants resulting from this spill as some groups have claimed?

It may be some time before we know the true impact of this disaster.  It is important for all monitoring to continue, full results be provided to the public, and direct understanding of this situation be advertised.  Of the utmost importance at this time is for those agencies in charge to do everything possible to appropriately and adequately clean up this mess and take every step possible to prevent such incidnents from occuring ever again.  This type of catastrophe has significant impacts to us, our recreational outlets, our food supply, our drinking water supply, aquatic life, and land use.  This is by no means an isolated event to a specific site in our state, but a disaster with the potential to impact the environmental as a whole .

President-elect Obama’s transition team LISTENED!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008


I along with 30 or so other environmental groups met with four members of the President-elect Obama’s transition team on Monday. They were here to listen and that is exactly what they did. Unexpectedly, I ended up facilitating the discussion, but I did get a chance to talk to them afterward to present our comments. The team members made it very clear that they would not be suggesting policy to the President-elect.

Folks talked a lot about Clean Water Act jurisdiction. Bad Supreme Court decisions have muddied the waters regarding what is a water of the nation. A piece of federal legislation could put that right. It’s call the Clean Water Authority Restoration Act. The team members indicated that they have been hearing a lot about this issue in the 150 or so interviews they haveconducted. Folks talked about a number of things that were diligently written down from nuclear waste contaminating water to mountain top removal. The team did not indicate whether they thought one issue would be a priority over any other. Neither did they speculate on the new EPA administrator. The announcement is expected this week, perhaps tomorrow.

I made sure to have an opportunity to talk to them about Tennessee’s concerns. We are concerned about the confusion on the federal level about waters of the nation trickling down to waters of the state as it did in last year’s terrible legislation, the Limited Resource Waters Bill. I also told them that enforcement of environmental laws was of utmost importance to our members and other folks that we work with.

Speculation about the next stimulus bill carried a large part of the discussion. There is concern from many groups that stimulus money will go to fund projects with the technology of the 1950’s. We urged the transition team to discuss ways in which we can use some of that money for new technologies and more R&D. Unfortunately, stormwater infrastructure may not be funded.

The meeting went longer than expected but the team was willing to listen until we were through. It was a great experience and a harbinger of good things to come. Finally, an administration who listens.


Send a message to President-elect Obama

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Next week I go to Washington DC in my role as the Board Chair for the national Clean Water Network to meet with President-elect Obama’s transition team.

We have a lot to ask our new president - basically to roll back every executive order signed by Bush in the last eight years and to increase protection for water resources in the coming four, hopefully eight years.

A word of caution, though. Everyone has really high, very high, excruciatingly high expectations of this president and for good reason. The stature of the United States has declined precipitously in the past eight years. We are not the power we think we are. We may flex muscles abroad, but we are weak here at home. Getting our drinking and waste water infrastructure up to par would require something like $400M/year for the next ten years. We must find a more sustainable way to live so that we don’t put ourselves in a position for corporatization of water resources. Or worse, run out of fresh water.

President-elect Obama cannot do everything we want. He will not be able to give us everything we ask. He will fail at some level and that’s not a fault but an inevitability. TCWN will continue to criticize bad decisions whether they are from this president or the next. We will not change our position because we perceive this administration to be friendly. In fact, we plan to make more demands. President-elect Obama thinks preserving a healthy environment is important. We intend to make him live up to that idea.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to pass on to the transition team, post it on this blog. I’ll make sure they get addressed.