The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation forwarded their initial report regarding the TVA Ocoee #3 sludge release into the Ocoee River.
The sludge release appears to have occurred Sunday afternoon (Jan. 4 2009) around 2:30 PM. The U.S. Forest Service at Cherokee National Forest and the Ocoee White Water Center alerted TDEC on Monday.
According to TDEC, a foul-smelling, black sludge/sediment/ooze was deposited in the Olympic section of the river, up to 3.5 feet deep in some places.
The sludge release caused a fish kill, but the dead fish are buried in the sludge so a count was not possible. No live fish were observed in that section of the river.
A 2008 Forest Service survey of the fish population showed fish were thriving in the Olympic section, which TDEC says is "remarkable" because there had not been any fish in that portion of the river "for over 100 years." TDEC credits water quality restoration efforts by Occidental Petroleum and Glenn Springs Holding in the historic mining district, efforts which appear to have been wiped out at least temporarily by the sludge release.
TVA told TDEC that they opened the bottom sluice gate of Ocoee #3 to draw it down in preparation for repairs on the leaking Ocoee #2 dam.
TDEC says there were no permit requests or coordination with TDEC regarding special operations of the Ocoee dams and powerhouses, nor had there been any coordination with Tennessee State Parks or the U.S. Forest Service.
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