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Tr-Ash Talk: TVA Corporate Culture Unjustified

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View Alana Bryant's blog posts
28 September 2011, 7:54 AM
Finger-pointing and blaming ensue among TVA representatives
Coal ash spill

The TVA Kingston trial has gotten off to a interesting, yet unsettling start. The trial consists of five cases, representing 250 plaintiffs who are suing TVA over the 2008 coal ash disaster that occurred in Knoxville, TN.

Testimony began last week, and proceedings are expected to continue anywhere from the next few weeks to the next few months. Representatives from TVA have been the first to testify, and so far it has been laden with blame-passing statements that characterize the disjointed nature of the TVA departments.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that TVA Engineer Matthew Williams was responsible for maintaining the groundwater monitoring system at the Kingston plant, but faced difficulties when other TVA crews repeatedly ran over his devices with heavy machinery.

Williams was in charge groundwater monitoring—a critical component of dealing with a coal ash pond. But his colleagues either did not know enough or did not care enough to steer clear of testing devices.

When asked if alleged Chief Engineer Chris Buttram was to blame for the coal ash spill, Williams responded by saying, “I am a middle man and it is possible that Chris was a middle man, too.” This kind of miscommunication and misunderstanding across departments, and even within departments is inexcusable.

TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore also had comments about the toxic spill. He repeatedly stated that there were “missed opportunities” to stop the spill, but most of those opportunities passed before he took the job in 2005. If this is true, then why wasn’t “Chief Engineer” Chris Buttram aware of any written standards to follow during a coal ash pond inspection, and why had he never seen an ash pond before… and furthermore, why didn’t he know he was chief engineer?

These proceedings are indicative of a corporate culture that has no cross-departmental understanding, no form of checks and balances, and minimal oversight from above. Such mismanagement for a corporation responsible for the electricity for 9 million people is unacceptable and hopefully it does not illustrate a trend in the industry.

Alana, I deeply appreciate this blog entry.
Corporate culture seems to be the root of many serious problems across the vast amount of issues we have in todayʻs world.
Thank-you for covering this story.
I look forward to your next post!

Thanks for highlighting this case! - It's completely irresponsible for such corporations to have almost no oversight. So many of these types of problems can be prevented if there was a better system in keeping the corporations in compliance with following safe standards. Accidents like this are most likely to continue happening if there are no significant improvements being made within the "corporate culture."

Can't wait to read more of your blogs!

Great blog entry! A case that should be followed.

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