December 23, 2008 Press Conference
Kilgore began by noting that the situation was not what he wanted for TVA and those affected, particularly in the holiday season.
Kilgore stressed how grateful he was that there were no injuries.
He explained TVA’s extensive outreach to contact residents of the area and to place those in need in temporary housing, providing them with meal gift cards and shopping cards for necessities.
Kilgore said the next steps will be home inspections and consultation with homeowners, then recovery of the area, which will include engineering, environmental-impact assessment and actual recovery.
He said Kingston Fossil Plant has enough coal to operate the plant for 60 days. However, with warmer days predicted for the immediate future, he said the plant may be taken offline to conserve the coal for use on colder days to come.
He said he’d been at the site since early Monday morning and emphasized his appreciation for the TVA employees and many others assisting in the effort. These include local officials, police and fire officers, and emergency crews, as well as representatives from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard.
Kilgore also offered his thanks to the TVA employees who will be working through Christmas on this 24/7 effort.
He briefed the media on several key points about the recovery operation:
Safety. The emphasis to all employees and everyone working with TVA is to work safely and to protect the public’s safety.
Outreach to the community and the media. TVA is making every effort to contact residents of affected homes who are out of town for Christmas. TVA also is putting those displaced in contact with realty agents to find them homes for the near future. Kilgore said crews are working to restore a water supply to all in the event area. He noted that there is an Emergency Control Center in Chattanooga that will be staffed 24/7.
Recovery efforts (including engineering, environmental matters, and river operations). Kilgore explained the process of containment and cleanup and said TVA, local, state and federal officials are constantly sampling water in the area for drinking quality. TVA continues the work to clear Swan Pond Road, which is expected to take weeks. TVA is planning to extend a boom downstream to collect the fine parts of the fly ash floating on top of the water.
Security. TVA Police and local law-enforcement officials are asking boaters to stay away from the area and not to attempt to come by to observe the scene.
History and inspections. Kilgore gave the reporters a full history of the site. “The report is intended to be self critical,” he said. It described two leaks that were fixed in recent years and described other steps that were taken to maintain the site. Also, the most recent annual inspection of the Kingston dikes was conducted in October 2008. That formal report is not complete. However, a preliminary report shows that a ‘wet spot' was found, indicating a minor leaking issue. There were no significant problems found that indicated that the dikes were unstable to the point of failure.