May 13, 2009
Today United Mountain Defense had a conference call with the Environmental Protection Agency about the agreement they recently entered with TVA to oversee the cleanup efforts of the coal ash disaster.
This agreement was entered under the Administrative Order Superfund Law also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or CERCLA.
Below is a summary of the questions asked by UMD on this conference call and paraphrased answers from the EPA.
Question - Is the TVA disaster site a superfund?
Response – It is not listed on the national priority list because it is a removal and cleanup effort.
Question – Is the EPA the lead agency for the cleanup effort in the TVA disaster site.
Response – EPA is overseeing all cleanup efforts and has the final approval in all decisions since the order has been signed.
Questions – Does this mean that the EPA is replacing TDEC as the lead regulatory agency?
Response – We have the final approval on all decisions.
Questions – What is your plan for public participating?
Reponses – You can read this on our question and answer press release.
At this time we explained that we had read the statement they release and we had some concerns about the way they are approaching the public participation component of Superfund law. We expressed concern that public participation would not be part of certain “time critical actions” such as dredging, dust suppression, ash storage, etc.
The EPA said that it was true that many of these “time critical action” would take place before public comments are collected but that they would allow for public input and this input could be taken into consideration for specific actions.
They also said the permanent storage of the coal ash is not considered a “time critical action” and that they would wait until public hearings take place before they begin storing the coal ash. At this point we asked them about the coal ash that has already left the site on railcars and been transported by train south into Georgia and possibly other areas. They said this was part of a “pilot project” and they did not know where the coal ash was going but they would get back to us with details.
Questions- When will the first public hearing take place?
Response - We just recently arrived on site and need some time to get our feet on the ground.
At this point we let the EPA know that arranging public participation also needs to be a “time critical action” and should happen as soon as possible so that those who have had their lives changed by this disaster can be involved in decisions that impact their health and environment.
We also explained that we have been on the ground at the disaster site since it first happened and we are interested in making sure any agency in charge of cleanup efforts are transparent in their actions and open and responsive to the concerns of the community.