Feb 15 2016
09:39 am

TDEC's "failure to enforce" should be a sore spot with Roane Countians. It was in part TDEC's failure to force TVA to act on its responsibilities for proper coal ash storage that contributed to the horrific TVA ash disaster in 2008. TVA was allowed to evade its responsibilities and operate under a provisional discharge permit that allowed water quality violations to continue unabated.

After a renewed effort to straighten out TDEC under Governor Phil Bredesen, Governor Haslam appears to be headed toward a complete failure of enforcement in his last term.

TCWN executive director Renee Hoyos said. "According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there are 255 permittees in Tennessee in violation of their permits. And out of that number, TDEC only issued 15 enforcement orders to clean up the rivers and lakes. That is unacceptable.

TDEC replies...

"The Tennessee Clean Water Network's emphasis on enforcement orders as a complete picture of environmental protection is a short-sighted view. ... We're not going to just sit back and wait for regulated entities to pollute so we can jump in and say, 'Gotcha' with an enforcement order. This approach is not in the best interest of public health and safety, or the environment."

But TDEC inspectors apparently don't agree. The department's own reports show inspectors made 170 requests for enforcement actions last year when only 15 were taken. That's a response rate of 9 percent, down from 78 percent in 2007, according to the Tennessee Clean Water Network.

TDEC claims they are using other means to force clean up but so far they have refused to provide any information that would back that up.

Here's a good overview of the situation from the Nashville Scene.

Bears watching

TDEC’s intent to be more user friendly predates this administration. At issue seems to be the meaning of words (enforcement vs compliance) and metrics (how to quantify actions taken by the state).

This administration seems to

This administration seems to have decided that "USER" does not apply to people who drink water, only to people who use it to flush away their industrial poisons.

It’s complicated, but I am hopeful!

We know from our experience here that drinking water meets established quality standards. I’m more concerned about what’s in the sediment that enters the food web contaminating interdependent aquatic and terrestrial biota including people who eat locally-caught fish, crayfish, mussels, and turtles. Unfortunately, *bioaccumulation* is not recognized in setting drinking water quality standards. The 303 d list of impaired waters needs to include contaminants of concern that bioaccumulate in the food web even though they pass drinking water quality standards. This will take the State and EPA working together to develop guidance and standards for industries, agriculture, accidents, and natural occurring sources of contamination.

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