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Big changes in TVA response under EPA

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By The Staff

By TERRI LIKENS

tlikens@roanecounty.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's new role overseeing the TVA ash spill cleanup are coming with an independent health study and a renewed sense of urgency.

The moves were announced at a county long-term recovery board meeting struggling to deal with issues created by the disaster at TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant on Dec. 22, 2008.

Leo Francendese, EPA's on-scene coordinator, was at the meeting, as was Anda Ray, TVA's environmental executive.

"When Leo came on board, everything's back on the table," Ray said in response to questions about what is and isn't being considered in the cleanup process.

The health study will involve blood tests, questionnaires and one-on-one exams expected to last a minimum of an hour each. The toxicology work will be handled by Vanderbilt Medical Center experts and the program will be independently administered. TVA's primary role will be footing the bill, expected to be in the range of about $1,800 per person.

Francendese made it clear that getting the ash out the Emory River was a strong EPA priority.

TVA took a verbal beating by Kingston Mayor and Roane County Commission Chairman Troy Beets, who was very upset that he and Kingston City Manager Jim Pinkerton had to learn that ash had entered the water treatment plant through media reports — not from TVA.

Beets and the city of Kingston has emphasized the safety of the city's drinking water after the spill. Although officials said the plant was not operating and ash did not get into the water supply, the damage had been done,

"Dadburn, we rang a bell that we can't unring," Beets said.

County Executive Mike Farmer also complained to Ray.

"We still have a problem of communication, period," he said.

Ray accepted the criticism gracefully and promised TVA would do better.

Editor's note: For more in-depth details on this story, see the May 22, 2009, print edition of the Roane County News.