The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Displaying items by tag: environmental protection agency

Monday, 13 November 2023 13:01

Tennessee developing a plan to reduce polution

Tennessee wants to prioritize a developing plan to reduce pollution causing climate warming and wants to hear from residents. A survey was created for residents to share what they wanted to see in a statewide climate pollution reduction plan. The survey closed on Nov. 15.

This planning process is being led by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and is part of the Tennessee Volunteer Emission Reduction Strategy (TVERS), an emission reduction plan currently being developed by TDEC with support from various partners. This plan is funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) program, which was established in the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA).

Published in Feedbag

Ela-Dam_Oconaluftee-River_Erin-McCombs28-1-2048x1536.jpgEla Dam on the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee. The dam is slated for removal to benefit aquatic species and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.  Erin McCombs

Ela Dam Removal Coalition moving forward after $4 million grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to commence river restoration project 

Erin McCombs is the Southeast Conservation Director of American Rivers.

CHEROKEEAmerican Rivers is working with a team on a massive effort to remove the Ela dam and restore the land and Oconaluftee River to its natural condition. Partnering with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), American Rivers is part of a coalition of federal, state, public, private, and non-profit organizations that has formed to remove the Ela dam.

Truly a village effort, the Ela Dam Coalition includes the EBCI, American Rivers, Mainspring Conservation Trust, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Environmental Protection Agency, American Whitewater, Swain County, the Army Corps of Engineers, and Northbrook Carolina Hydro II.

“Healthy rivers are essential to all life, and removing a dam is the fastest way to restore a river’s health. We appreciate this initial investment by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in  the restoration of the Oconaluftee River. We look forward to working with them to leverage this investment to fully realize this project to revitalize fish and wildlife habitat and restore vital cultural connections. We are grateful to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for their leadership, and for the partnership of Mainspring Conservation Trust,” said Tom Kiernan, American Rivers President and CEO.  

Blocking the Oconaluftee River’s natural flow impacts the aquatic habitats of many native fish, mussels, birds, and other wildlife which require it for sheltering, feeding, reproducing, and thriving in their natural environment. The removal of Ela dam will result in a cultural reconnection of the Oconaluftee River to the Cherokee people and the Qualla Boundary. 

The Oconaluftee River is home to 11 sensitive and rare aquatic species, some of which are only found in a few streams and rivers in western North Carolina, including the federally endangered Appalachian elktoe freshwater mussel, the Sicklefin Redhorse (NC Threatened), and Eastern Hellbender (NC Special Concern). Once complete, 549 miles of the Oconaluftee River watershed will be restored and expand habitat for these species. 

Published in News
Monday, 30 October 2023 12:25

Waste at Smokey Mountain Smelters finally sealed

EPA’s Peter Johnson addressed the cleanup efforts and some general ideas of what will come next in a recent YouTube video uploaded Monday, Oct. 23.

EPA consolidated toxic South Knoxville smelter refuse in single on-site landfill.

KNOXVILLE — The Smokey Mountain Smelters site is in the Vestal Community at 1508 Maryville Pike near Montgomery Village Apartments.

“We are excited to announce the cleanup at Smokey Mountain Smelters has been completed,” EPA remedial project manager Peter Johnson said.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, agricultural and chemical companies operated at the site before Smokey Mountain Smelters, also known as Rotary Furnace Inc., came to the location in 1979. The company melted scrap aluminum and aluminum dross together to cast the byproduct into aluminum bars. These operations continued until 1994.

Johnson has said in other talks the dross and saltcakes left over from the process react with water, releasing heat and ammonia gas. They leach aluminum, ammonia, chloride “and many other contaminants,” he said. Smokey Mountain Smelting’s toxins have flowed through groundwater into a tributary of Flenniken Branch, causing concerns about effects on fishing.

In 2010 the EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) because of contaminated soils, sediment and surface water resulting from past industrial operations at the site. The EPA did some cleanup work in 2010 and 2011.

Published in News
Friday, 20 October 2023 23:38

Lawsuit probes Oak Ridge Clean Water Waiver

EMDFlocationEditor’s note: The Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF) was planned with sufficient capacity to properly accommodate all the problem waste to be generated by the cleanup of the Oak Ridge Reservation. However, to accelerate the cleanup and reduce the cost of preprocessing demolition waste, highly toxic waste was not systematically separated from less contaminated waste that would not have required disposal under Superfund criteria. Thus, EMWMF was approaching its capacity much sooner than projected. Hence, DOE began planning the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) on land designated to remain uncontaminated during DOE’s Stakeholder Stewardship process of the late 1990s. 

What did EPA Administrator Regan know when he overruled his experts?

WASHINGTON — A controversial decision by Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency may compromise the protectiveness of radiation cleanups across the country, yet the agency will not release the material explaining the basis for this decision, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The suit seeks to find out why EPA allowed a landfill at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the nation’s largest nuclear waste sites, to pollute local waters over the objections of its top legal experts.

The Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation (TDEC) had objected to plans by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to build a landfill for radiological wastes and debris from demolished structures from the Y-12 National Security Complex and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. TDEC protested that wastewater from the landfill would contaminate Bear Creek, a tributary of the Clinch River. EPA’s acting Regional Administrator agreed with the state.

Published in News

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EPA finally capping toxic waste at South Knoxville Superfund site

KNOXVILLE — The Environmental Protection Agency this week began putting a protective cap on the former Smokey Mountain Smelters site to control its pollution.

The EPA said the cap will protect nearby waterways by stopping stormwater runoff from combining with the toxic waste on site. Engineers and workers began the project the week of July 6.

By cutting it off from the stormwater, the EPA hopes to stop toxins from flowing away either through groundwater or runoff. The site is off Maryville Pike in South Knoxville. Caleb Properties purchased two of the site’s three parcels at the Delinquent Property Tax Sale on May 16. EPA is building the cap and storing the waste in the area Caleb Properties purchased. The agency stated Caleb Properties committed to “allocating a portion of the development of the site for community benefit,” and they’ll still have to work with the EPA’s remedy for cleanup. 

Hellbender Press has reported on the cleanup sites and environmental legacies.

Published in News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on May 11 proposed new carbon pollution standards for coal and gas-fired power plants to protect public health and reduce harmful pollutants.

EPA’s proposed standards are expected to deliver up to $85 billion in climate and public health benefits over the next two decades and avoid up to 617 million metric tons of total carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2042.

EPA estimates that in 2030 alone, the proposed standards will prevent more than 300,000 asthma attacks; 38,000 school absence days; 1,300 premature deaths; 38,000 school absence days; and 66,000 lost work days.

Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy“Individuals and communities across the country are doing whatever they can to protect against the immense dangers of climate pollution and are depending on the federal government to do the same. Federal limits on climate pollution from power plants are a critically needed and long overdue protection for public health and the environment. 

“We will be reviewing the proposal and hope that the proposal hits the mark in giving our communities the safeguards they need from deadly fossil pollution.”

EPA will be taking comments on these proposals for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.


Published in Feedbag

TVA 4 Cumberland FP

Supreme Court air-pollution ruling calls into stark context all that must be done

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

KNOXVILLE — The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change has renewed the spotlight on the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility and Tennessee’s primary source of electricity.

The case involved EPA efforts to implement a key provision of the Clean Air Act in a challenge brought by 15 Republican-led states. That provision, which never went into effect, would have required existing power plants to shift from dirty sources of energy — such as coal — to cleaner sources, including solar and wind, as part of an urgent effort to reduce global warming.

Published in News

Smokey Mountain Smelters siteAerial view (ca. 2002) of Smokey Mountain Smelters Superfund site, located between two rail lines. At left is the overpass of Maryville Pike, at right a section of Knox County Development Corporation’s Montgomery Village Apartments. The large smelter hall and a few of the apartment buildings have since been removed.  Image from TN Dept. of Health

Knoxville’s most polluted former industrial site is slated for a massive cleanup soon thanks to funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill Congress recently passed. The Smokey Mountain Smelters site in Vestal has spent more than a decade on the National Priorities List, commonly called the “Superfund” list, of the most contaminated properties in the U.S. 

The work could start within just a few months, said Rusty Kestle, Environmental Protection Agency project manager for the site. He said it’s the top priority in the Southeast for the infrastructure funding because it’s among the most affordable and ready for action.

Published in News
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreat Smoky Mountains National Park Air Resource Specialist is seen at the Look Rock air quality research station.   Courtesy National Park Service

The lack of regional and local vehicle traffic during the pandemic greatly reduced measurable pollution in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This is your Hellbender weekend read, and the first in an occasional Hellbender Press series about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the natural world

Great Smoky Mountains National Park shut down for six weeks in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Recorded emissions reductions during that period in part illustrate the role motor vehicles play in the park's vexing air-quality issues. The full cascade of effects from the pollution reductions are still being studied.

Hellbender Press interviewed park air quality specialist Jim Renfro about the marked reduction of carbon dioxide and other pollutants documented during the park closure during the pandemic, and the special scientific opportunities it presents.  He responded to the following questions via email.

Hellbender Press: You cited “several hundred tons" in pollutant reductions during an interview with WBIR of Knoxville (in 2020). What types of air pollutants does this figure include? 

Published in Air