Wed
Jan 7 2009
08:41 am

Knoxville News Sentinel:

An initial report of high levels of thallium near the intake was debunked Tuesday by an EPA re-evaluation, Carriker said.

It's a small thing, but the word "debunked" caught my eye. My dictionary says it means "to expose the sham or falseness of." In this context, debunking presumes suspicion of the test results.

It's not clear whether this was just a reporter's poor choice of words or if he was quoting TVA officials, but either the KNS or TVA or both seem to approach the problem from a standpoint that there is no problem and expect test results to confirm that or they're presumed inaccurate, ie. "bunk."

The report also doesn't say how the test results were "debunked." It only says that it involved "re-evaluation by EPA." Have the sites been resampled? We don't know.

We'd all like to see test results come out negative. But there's no denying that coal fly ash has a lot of nasty stuff in it. TVA must accurately track where it is in what concentration and develop a plan to contain it. According to the report, they don't have a plan yet.

WhitesCreek's picture

When a sample is tested,

When a sample is tested, there is a lot of it that is untouched in the first round of tests, which are more general and typically involved a threshhold marker (much like a common drug test). Then there are further tests that get more specific. In any lab work there can be flyers, such as the Appy State tests that show zero for some elements that we all know are present.

No test is perfect, so they go from a shotgun test to the rifle test, down to the laser test (figuratively speaking) to see exactly how much of anything is actually there, once the indicators are triggered. Does that apply in this case? We will find out.

What this illustrates is the wisdom of not flying off the handle and announcing on CNN (Erin Brockovich) that people want to know why there is Thallium in their drinking water, without knowing for sure if there really IS thallium in the drinking water. It hurts the enviro-cred of long term activists who are far more careful and reasonable in how they work toward the same goals we all share.

BTW...No test has shown thallium threshhold levels in treated water. That should have been a clue that further testing was called for. In the haste to put the info out, EPA did not post the qualifying language that goes out with a final report.

WhitesCreek's picture

OK...

The EPA report does have the appropriate language posted with it, along with the data from the treated waterwhich showed no MCL of thallium. An no subsequent test has shown threshhold levels of thallium.

The report was not debunked...it was correct all along.

Anonymously Nine's picture

Take it down a notch

What this illustrates is the wisdom of not flying off the handle and announcing on CNN (Erin Brockovich) that people want to know why there is Thallium in their drinking water, without knowing for sure if there really IS thallium in the drinking water. It hurts the enviro-cred of long term activists who are far more careful and reasonable in how they work toward the same goals we all share.

My point exactly from the other thread. Proactive versus reactive.

You suggest people wait to be concerned until the water is tested. While the various agencies argue and debate the test levels people are drinking that water? I would not have a cup of coffee or an iced tea in all of Roane County.

You don't want Erin Brockovich's help. Some of the local activists want this done their way. Friday night we will see how many people agree with you. Most people in America have no idea the magnitude of what happened.

You should be thankful for any public exposure this disaster gets. If the February report on the TVA pond that failed had been on Sixty Minutes, or even in the KNS, this might never had happened. Meanwhile TVA is using the most despicable PR ever.

I'm glad Erin Brockovich is coming. I hope she brings the national media with her.

It's not clear whether this was just a reporter's poor choice of words or if he was quoting TVA officials, but either the KNS or TVA or both seem to approach the problem from a standpoint that there is no problem and expect test results to confirm that or they're presumed inaccurate, or "bunk."

Trust TVA at your own peril. Public media exposure is the only way that this will fixed and the water and air made safe again.

WhitesCreek's picture

I will gladly accept

I will gladly accept Brockovich and anyone else's help. What I don't want are statements designed to grab headlines that include false or inaccurate information that will hang around in people's perceptions long after the celebs have gone on to their next campaign.

TVA has quietly held a series of meetings with small groups of people who live here. They are invited onto the site and have the opportunity to hear plans and progress reports and ask any questions whatsover of TVA insiders. Every question posed at the meeting I attended was answered with stark honesty and no BS. In my group were engineers and scientists who hit them hard with tougher questions than any reporter would know to ask. We've seen the answers to some of the ones they could not answer at the time show up in later press releases as they try to get honest information out to everyone here.

Like I've said before, there is a difference between "TVA the People" and TVA the Corporation. I get my information from the People. They're on the ground and live here with their children just like I do.

And this mess is actually very localized to about a half a square mile in a County of almost 400 square miles. And...I bet we have the most tested water in Tennessee, by four separate labs that I am aware of, maybe more.

R. Neal's picture

Thanks for clearing that up,

Thanks for clearing that up, WC. Makes more sense than the KNS report.

And just to be clear, my observation is not about the testing so much as the use of loaded words in media reports.

Andy Axel's picture

Yeah, "debunk" has the ring

Yeah, "debunk" has the ring of "read Snopes for more info."

A better editor would insist upon, "Earlier claims of elevated thallium levels are not supported by the test results" or something of the like.

But the KNS doesn't have better editors.

____________________________

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! Special holidays, Sundays and rates!

StaceyDiamond's picture

TVA

I'm glad Erin Brockovich is coming, she's amazing. I find it unfortunate though some people who might benefit from her help react badly to that, the same wway some Tennesseans react to union organizing. They seem to think the big companies have their best interests at heart but unions and lawyers are bad, its strange really.

R. Neal's picture

One concern is that if a law

One concern is that if a law firm gets the community to sign on to a class action, does that a) prevent individual lawsuits, b) prolong the legal battle for years, and c) reduce the individual settlements, not to mention the law firm's cut?

Would it be better for each resident to work out their own settlement with TVA (with the help of legal counsel and expert advice) and try to get that done quickly?

I'm not advocating for one or the other, I honestly don't know how it works.

Other lawsuits for better regulatory oversights and fines would be a separate issue. But we know who ultimately ends up paying the fines, and for the lawyers on both sides.

The legal nightmares have only just begun!

WhitesCreek's picture

You are right to think about

You are right to think about what signing a contract with a law firm would do in a case like this. There's a 3 year statute of limitations so there's no rush, unless you are worried that TVA will go bankrupt really soon.

Frankly, I don't see monetary damages being much in eccess of the actual harm plus loss of use, etc. Punative ain't gonna happen.

Anonymously Nine's picture

Update, strawman sighting

Brockovich visit concerns some

(link...)

Who is behind the curtain? We are not in Kansas anymore Toto.

Tess's picture

heartbreaking video

Whitescreek, I have tried to register at your site twice, but apparently am not going to be admitted for some reason. At any rate, the video you have posted at Roaneviews is (albeit a little too long) a very powerful and heartbreaking look at Swan Pond before and after the disaster. My family had property there during my childhood and I spent many happy years playing in the Emory River. The video made me cry.

For those who haven't seen it, take a look at
(link...)

Tess's picture

Kilgore appearing before Congress now

(link...)

You can hear this live at WBIR at link (around 11:00am and is on now).

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