SEJ Urges Prompt, Full EPA Release of Ash Spill Testing Data

January 14, 2009

The Society of Environmental Journalists has written EPA's Region 4 Administrator Jimmy Palmer urging the agency to release promptly and fully any environmental monitoring data it collects related to the spill of coal ash December 22, 2008, from an east Tennessee impoundment operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

A number of reporters covering the story had complained of difficulty in getting this information. Actual data came from environmentalists who had done their own tests before it began coming from the EPA. EPA's first results weren't released until 11 days after the spill.

The letter noted: "We've been down this road before. Journalists covering Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and air quality issues after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks were frustrated by the EPA's slow response to requests for information."

In breaking news situations, where public health may be at stake and minutes may be crucial, prompt, professional federal agency response to news inquiries may save lives.

In days following the letter, TVA, state agencies, and EPA released more test results.