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Ash committe miffed on late notice of health study

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

TVA informed a congressional subcommittee recently that it plans to contract with Oak Ridge Associated Universities to address the health concerns of local residents.

Members of Roane County’s long term recovery committee were irked because they didn’t know about those plans.

“We thought that we might find out maybe ahead of the game,” County Executive Mike Farmer told TVA officials Wednesday.

The health of residents became a concern after the disaster at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

An estimated 5.4 million cubic yards of coal fly ash engulfed the area surrounding the plant when a retention pond failed last December.

The recovery committee was formed because of the disaster.   

TVA informed the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment about the ORAU plans on March 31.

According to TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore’s written testimony, TVA is contracting with ORAU to provide community members and the local medical community with access to medical and toxicology experts who have experience and knowledge about the health effects related to the contaminants in the ash.

Farmer said he hopes Wednesday’s meeting sent a message to TVA about keeping the recovery committee in the know.

“I hope that they heard us,” he said. “If they don’t, then we need to proceed toward making sure that our voice is clearer.”

The House subcommittee also received testimony from Duke University professor Avner Vengosh, a man whose research has been dismissed by some local officials.

TVA officials have said that most of the spilled ash ended up in the Emory River, but Vengosh said issues exist in the Clinch River as well.

He concluded that high concentrations of mercury in downstream sediments of the Emory and Clinch rivers suggest physical transport of coal ash in the rivers.

Vengosh also concluded that the ash spill has the potential to disrupt the food chain in the rivers and cause fish poisoning.