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By DAMON LAWRENCE
TVA has endured some harsh criticism since the fly ash catastrophe at the Kingston Fossil Plant.
Some of the agency’s most vocal Roane County critics have been selected to serve on the Roane County Community Advisory Group.
“We want to work with TVA, EPA and the community,” said Randy Ellis, vice chairman of the advisory group. “If anybody in the community has concerns about the cleanup process, we’ll be happy to take those concerns and have them addressed by the TVA or EPA.”
A dike failure at the TVA plant last December released 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash.
The disaster damaged homes and glutted the Emory River.
Ellis said the advisory committee is not a sounding board for people who are upset with TVA about civil and property matters.
“Our group is only an advisory committee to the EPA for the cleanup process,” Ellis said. “The only concern our group has as far as the ash spill is the cleanup process and getting information out to the community about what’s going on with that.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started overseeing the cleanup in May.
The creation of the group was one of the terms of the agreement between the EPA and TVA.
According to the EPA, the purpose of a Community Advisory Group is to provide a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process.
Stephanie Brown, a community involvement coordinator with the EPA, said the advisory group cannot challenge EPA decisions.
“It’s basically listening and getting feedback,” she said.
Documents related to the cleanup can include technical jargon that might be easy for engineers and scientists to follow, but not so simple for the general public.
The advisory group will receive $50,000 in TVA funds to hire a technical adviser who can break down reports into layman’s terms.
“It’s a pretty technical job,” said Steve Scarborough, another member of the advisory group. “It requires a specific set of skills. Fortunately with Oak Ridge in the area and some other things, we have a fair number of people who possess those skills.”
Ellis said the advisory group hopes to fill the technical adviser position soon.
“We’re going to start taking resumes and doing the interviews to submit our names for who we want to be the technical adviser,” he said.
The advisory group has a Web site — www.roanecag.org.
“It will have a way for everybody to communicate with the CAG,” Scarborough said. “We’ll put up frequently asked questions. We’ll respond to things from that. We’ll be posting information, some of the most important information as we get a hold of it.”
Ellis said the advisory group has yet to establish a regular meeting place.
Roane County Executive Mike Farmer offered the courthouse as a meeting place.
Ellis said they are also considering the Kingston Community Center.
The cleanup has been going on for months and will continue in the months and years ahead.
Ellis said he expects the members of the advisory group to remain engaged.
“All of our CAG members should have no problem showing up at the meetings,” he said. “Everybody has showed interest in serving on the group.”
Community Advisory Group members are Brenda Timm (chair), Ellis, Penny Dodson (secretary), Jill Murphy (treasurer), Andy Avel, Peggy Blanchard, Donna Campbell, Rick Cantrell, Sarah McCoin, Joni Morgan, Bobby Renfro, Scarborough and Don Simon.