I want the citizens of Anderson County to know as mayor, I have not signed a resolution brought to county commission that requests funding to “offset the financial and environmental burdens” of a proposed expansion of an existing U.S. Department of Energy disposal site, or the creation of a new cell, that for all intents and purposes, would be a twin site.
In my humble and steadfast view, there is no amount of money that could sufficiently offset environmental harm, and I would not put the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Anderson County up for negotiation on a spreadsheet to balance the books of county government.
What I can do, and have for the last three years that I have served as mayor, is closely watch the proposal as it winds its way through a very monitored and specific process. I have participated in community workshops on the subject, held private meetings with leadership and staff of DOE’s Environmental Management Team, have been on site at the current disposal cell, am attentive to all briefings at our regular governmental meetings with DOE and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.
In addition, my chief of staff is a highly educated and trained environmental hydrogeologist and he is tasked with verifying all information coming to me. As Ronald Reagan used to say, “trust, but verify.”
I fear the resolution brought to commission outside of our normal, required committee process and served up at the 11th hour moves us in the wrong direction—that is, a direction that generates political debate and fear, instead of scientific and environmental fact-finding, best practices, and collaboration. It is a direction that puts us at odds with not only our largest employer, but puts at risk federal appropriations, and therefore progress, as we address cleaning up legacy waste once and for all.
I am honored for both our city, county, state, and nation to be the home of Y-12 National Security Complex. I am enormously proud of the lives we saved, and the role we continue to play in national security and international stability. Like most all work performed in any industry, there is waste generated. But in this day and age, we are equipped with the full knowledge and ability to address it.
Please know that as mayor, I’m asking my own questions—questions like, “can the cell be split in two if there are shallow water tables at one particular area? We know engineers say it can work, but can we go above and beyond?” And as people like me ask such questions, DOE has responded.
The process is a long one. No proposal has yet to be agreed upon by the regulators of DOE’s proposal—that is, Environmental Protection Agency (federal) and TDEC (state.) When a proposal is accepted, we’ll continue to have opportunities for comment. But please know, pretending that we don’t currently operate a similar site to clean up old, legacy materials that currently sit exposed in our community, in order to request local payments—is a harmful strategy when we are making so much progress.
My larger goal as mayor has been to push for expedited clean-up. Let’s get it finished, once and for all. If we seek as local government to pursue any additional funding, it should be to ask for a larger share of the Environmental Management pie of dollars—and as our sales pitch, show examples of success, such as the K-31 demolition finishing four months ahead of schedule and approximately $4 million under budget.
Please know I take my role seriously and that I’ll continue to monitor the proposals—and I’ll continue to do so through one-on-one conversations, by studying reports and materials, and even traveling to D.C. or out in the field, if necessary. I want a clean community—and productive, working relationships are the key to make it happen.
Terry Frank is Anderson County mayor.
The new DOE disposal site for cleanup work at Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory could be built near an existing site west of Y-12.
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