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Archive for the ‘Building the River Movement’ Category

Speak your mind to the Water Quality Control Board

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Twice a year the state Water Quality Control Board opens up its floor to the public.  This is an opportunity for anyone to speak on an issue relevant to water quality and have the Board listen to you.  The WQCB is responsible for ensuring the TN Water Quality Control Act is implemented properly and has oversight of all water quality issues falling under this Act.  The meeting is October 20th and will be held on the 17th floor of TDEC’s headquarters in downtown Nashville at 401 Church Street.  Come on out and voice your concerns!

View from the passenger’s seat

Monday, January 5th, 2009

The TCWN staff went to the site of the Kingston ash spill this afternoon to see for ourselves the damage.  I have seen dozens of photos- but they do not do justice to the devastation of the area.  We were on Swan Pond Circle, looking out onto Swan Pond and then, the Emory River.  It is amazing.   We’ll post pictures tomorrow.

One thing that I kept thinking about while touring the area was the impact this has had on the neighborhoods.  I don’t know if folks knew their neighbors before this, but they do now.  We met this lady who was walking around her neighborhood passing out flyers for an upcoming meeting.  She was very suspicious of us, and for good reason.  Within the last two weeks, she has had dozens of strangers invade her quiet, picturesque neighborhood, media attention from around the world, aircraft hovering overhead.  She has had to become a community organizer, whether she wanted to or not.  Plus, she has to worry about the health and safety of her family and her home.  She never asked for this.  No one asked for this.

While I am glad we had a chance to see the ash spill, I can’t help but feel guilty for coming in, taking pictures and leaving- leaving behind all those people whose lives will never be the same.  I was glad to see neighbors taking care of neighbors.  That’s the East Tennessee way of life.

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.