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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hurricane Creekkeeper Says Stop the Emory River Cleanup… Or Bring the Arrowhead Landfill into Compliance

Hurricane Creekkeeper Says Stop the Emory River Cleanup…
Or Bring the Arrowhead Landfill into Compliance

by Glynn Wilson

The Waterkeeper Alliance is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to immediately halt the dredging of the Emory River in Kingston, Tennessee — and hauling wet TVA coal ash to the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Alabama — until the landfill comes into full compliance with state and federal laws.

In a formal complaint lodged today with the EPA, Hurricane Creekkeeper John Wathen says the formal agreement with EPA and TVA says no ash can be shipped to any landfill that does not meet compliance standards.

“We therefore respectfully request that EPA order a complete stopping of disaster ash to Perry County until this landfill is in complete compliance as certified by EPA national headquarters,” Mr. Wathen writes in the letter.

“EPA Region 4 and ADEM have failed us,” he says. “The situation here grows more dire with every rain event. Excessive water in the landfill is causing off-site violations, some intentional it seems.”

Wathen has photographs showing pumps diverting liquid waste off the landfill property into adjoining ditches near residential homes. (One is included below).

“Up to now, both EPA and ADEM are taking the operators word that no violations exist,” he says. “I am presenting you now with overwhelming evidence that this landfill is not and has never been in complete compliance since the disaster ash started coming.”

People throughout the community report nightly pumping of a stinking gray-tannish waste from the landfill.

“I have personally seen it and documented the pumps, the gray sludge leaving the site,” he says, adding that “overwhelming pictorial evidence has been submitted to support the allegation of night pumping at the landfill of wastewater from the landfill into roadside ditches.”

Arsenic and other pollutants of concern have been reported to EPA and ADEM, Wathen says, but no action has been taken.

Collection of material in the ditch has rendered two separate arsenic levels that exceed EPA safe drinking water standards, Wathen says, and one value much higher than the water quality criterion for aquatic life.

“While people do not drink from the ditch,” he concedes, “it leads through private land where farm animals do drink from the surface water.”

Mr. Wathen says EPA and ADEM have produced no reports showing evidence that any oversight has been conducted by the federal and state agencies charged with that by law. There are no reports of agency sampling or toxic releases data for the required inventory.

“I personally informed Mr. John Hagood, interim director ADEM, of these illicit night time discharges but he has chosen not to investigate,” Wathen says. “Instead, all the report says is that Mr. Cook, landfill manager denies the claim. No tests, no samples, no interviews of employees or nearby residents effected, just a simple denial by the manager was good enough to refute hundreds of photos, certified lab results, anecdotal stories from the community, or first hand eye witness account by me.”

Copies of the complaint were sent to the Congressional Sub-Committee on Environment and Public Works and chair Barbara Boxer of California.

In a recent complaint filed by Florida attorney David Ludder, who specializes in environmental law, high levels of arsenic were listed as a concern, but ADEM chose to take no samples for arsenic, Mr. Wathen says.

There are “so sample results available online and ADEM has not provided any information to refute my strikingly high arsenic findings” of 840 miligrams per liter on Feb. 15, 2009, Wathen says. “ADEM has not taken any enforcement action to foster compliance or resolve non-compliance.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson could not immediately be reached for comment, although we will follow-up with EPA’s official response when it comes in via e-mail…

John Wathen

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