TVA’s ‘slime’ disputed

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TVA attorneys expect extensive cross exam

By Damon Lawrence

TVA’s hired-out analysis of the ash spill was under attack again on Wednesday.
Dan Marks, an expert witness for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against TVA, said he doubts a “slimes layer” contributed to the disaster.
That was the theory put forth in a root-cause analysis conducted by Bill Walton of AECOM. Walton’s report said a slimes layer was one of the factors that led to the disaster.
“I’m not sure how to phrase this, really,” Marks said. “The problem I have with the report basically boils down to attempting to identify a so-called slimes layer.”
Marks took it a step further.
“I don’t think it was there,” he said.
The credibility of the AECOM investigation has been questioned throughout the trial.
A July 2009 report by the TVA Office of the Inspector General said the root-cause analysis was tightly scoped to minimize TVA’s liability.
TVA Inspector General Richard Moore testified last week that Walton told OIG staff he was precluded from doing certain things during the investigation, including placing any blame for the failure on TVA.
“I wanted to hear that with my own ears, so we traveled to Massachusetts to discuss the limits placed on his work,” Moore testified.
TVA plans to call Walton as an expert witness during its defense.
Walton sat quietly in the courtroom on Wednesday, listening and taking notes as Marks criticized his work.
“The report that TVA had commissioned from AECOM was not a root-cause analysis report,” Marks contended.
The disaster that is the subject of the lawsuits against TVA occurred on Dec. 22, 2008. A dike failure at the agency’s Kingston Fossil Plant released more than 5 million cubic yards of fly ash.
“This is when the paper bag busted,” Marks said, discussing when the dike failed.
Marks testified that TVA was negligent in maintaining the facility.
“TVA owned it,” he said. “TVA operated it, and it was their responsibility to maintain this facility in a manner that this kind of thing did not occur.”
Marks said another contributing factor was not building the facility the way it was designed.
“TVA failed to implement approved plans during construction of this whole facility,” he said. “One, they didn’t even start out right. Two, there was no design calling for raising that dike with ash. It just gets worse and worse as you go.”
Marks also testified that TVA had ample warning that something bad might occur.
“If they had listened to their own people in 1975, then this would not have happened,” he said.
TVA attorneys will look to raise doubts about the conclusions reached by Marks during cross-examination.
“I expect the cross of Dr. Marks could be extensive,” TVA attorney Edwin Small predicted.
TVA had yet to cross-examine Marks when court recessed for the day on Wednesday.
“I am 100-percent, go-to-my-grave positive that my analyses are correct,” Marks said.
At one point during questioning, TVA attorney Mark Anstoetter requested a copy of Marks’ notes.
“You already have it, sir,” Marks replied from the witness stand.