By Bob Fowler
HARRIMAN, Tenn. - Roads are being resurfaced and reopened, river dredging is under way, and a decision on where to permanently place millions of cubic yards of coal fly ash from a disastrous spill is imminent.
Those updates on TVA's recovery effort from the catastrophic Dec. 22 rupture of an ash retention pond at Kingston Fossil Plant were provided Monday during an open house.
As the cleanup continues, public interest appears to be waning.
Officials said 276 people attended the first event in January, while only 73 showed up during the first hour of Monday afternoon's get-together in the Roane State Community College gym.
Other update highlights, according to TVA:
* TVA is readying a health policy to have independent medical professionals consult with those who have filed health claims over the spill.
* A decision on what to do with the ash should be made by early May, with that phase of cleanup starting by mid-May.
* More than 7,500 cubic yards of fly ash has been dredged from the Emory River since operations began March 19, and that work will be extended three more hours each day - until 10 p.m. - starting today.
* Swan Pond Road - ground zero for the ash spill - is being resurfaced and should reopen by mid-April.
* Ongoing sampling shows that air and water quality continue to meet government standards.
* Ash samples indicate levels of heavy metals are well below the classification for hazardous waste.
Public opinion varied widely Monday on the efforts to clean up the 5.4 million cubic yards of fly ash.
"I personally think they (TVA) are doing a great job," said Joni Morgan, who lives near the spill site but wasn't personally affected. "Nobody has ever had to handle something like this before."
But activist Bonnie Swinford said of Monday's event: "This is the minimum that TVA can offer to the community."
Swinford, with the environmental group United Mountain Defense, said her organization is doing independent air monitoring. She said TVA's cleanup efforts should have more transparency, including details of minimum acceptable levels for heavy metals.
Bob Fowler, News Sentinel Anderson County editor, may be reached at 865-481-3625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.