Eastman restart continues after power outage, wastewater dischar - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Eastman restart continues after power outage, wastewater discharge and chemical release

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Eastman Chemical Company held a media briefing providing information on the power outage that happened Wednesday morning. Eastman Chemical Company held a media briefing providing information on the power outage that happened Wednesday morning.
A Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokesperson said they were notified of the wastewater discharge following a power outage at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport Wednesday, and said their staff has determined that there were no signs of "distressed or dead aquatic wildlife" after the discharge.

TDEC said they will continue to investigate the situation and the full statement from TDEC Deputy Communications Director Eric Ward is below:

On Wednesday, June 4, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was notified of a wastewater discharge as a result of a power outage at Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport, Tenn. The water treatment plant is now back to full operation.

TDEC maintained communication with Eastman throughout the situation upon being notified, and sent staff members to two separate locations downstream of the discharge to assess any impact the wastewater may have made on the river system.  After careful inspection of the river system, TDEC staff determined there are no signs of any distressed or dead aquatic wildlife at this time.  TDEC will continue to be in communication with Eastman and will continue to assess the situation.  

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Eastman Chemical Company just released an updated statement.   The company says that, as of 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, an assessment of the power disruption that caused the entire plant to shut down is on-going.  "The company is in the process of conducting a safe and orderly restart of operations and is assessing the potential business and financial impacts of the shutdown," according to the news release.   Eastman is instructing all personnel to report to work as scheduled unless they've been notified otherwise.

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Power is being restored in stages at Eastman Chemical Company after a power failure at the Kingsport facility Wednesday morning. Eastman officials said they have not seen a shutdown of this magnitude since 1998.

According to Environmental Protection Agency Public Affairs Specialist Dawn Harris-Young, that power failure resulted in Eastman discharging an unknown amount of diluted wastewater into the nearby river and Eastman venting some methanol (wood alcohol) into the air.

Initially, Eastman reported that 5,000 pounds of methanol was released into the air, now after further investigation it says the quantity of the wood alcohol that was released is significantly less. 

Eastman held a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Toy F. Reid Employee Center, on South Wilcox Drive, detailing what happened.

RAW: Eastman press conference on power outage resulting in waste water discharge

“We practice a hierarchy of waste management.” said Richard Strange Manager of Environmental Affairs. “It is only the dilute waste water that ends up going to our wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater, we are talking about, is actually 99% water – a small component of waste material.”

An EPA spokesperson told News Channel Eastman reported the incident to the federal agency this morning and that spokesperson told us it is the EPA's understanding that the pumps at Eastman was back online.

“The pumps at our treatment plant – their function is to raise that wastewater to the large waste water treatment plant,” said Strange. “These pumps have two different electrical functions within Eastman and today both systems failed.”

“We generate our own power,” said Parker Smith, Vice President and General Manager of manufacturing support and quality. “We are still in the process of evaluating exactly what that problem was. We have some idea of isolating so that we can begin a safe and orderly restart of the plant.

“When we lose power, we lose our electrostatic precipitators,” said Smith. “All processes have been interrupted. The entire plant is down. We have some auxiliary power we get from AEP. We have several ties, so that provides power to critical areas of the plant. They are working as they are designed.”

Some Eastman employees had the option of working from home Wednesday since air conditioning is not a part of the supported critical processes.

“We dispatch our emergency responders when we first heard of the power outage. We then notified the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the local emergency planning committee and the Nation Response Center – which is the U.S. Coast Guard. Then we started a dialogue back and forth with the Environmental Protection Agency,” said Strange.

An EPA spokesperson told News Channel 11 that it is not able to “speculate at this time whether or not a fine is in Eastman's future”.

The US Coast Guard’s National Response Center is the sole federal point of contact for reporting all hazardous substances releases and oil spills.

According to the NRC, Eastman reported three other releases of hazardous substances this year.

The NRC said none of these releases called for plant evacuations.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation was also contacted.

As a result of the wastewater discharge, EPA says there have been no reports of any coating on the water's surface or any evidence of any fish killed.

Eastman reports that no employees were injured during the power outage.

The following is a statement Eastman Chemical Company released just after 11:30 a.m. Wednesday on the power disruption:

Eastman Chemical Company’s Kingsport site experienced a widespread power disruption that resulted in an unplanned shutdown at its plant operations at approximately 10 a.m., Wednesday. We are currently investigating the cause of the disruption and shutting down manufacturing operations safely. Eastman immediately began notifying and cooperating with local, state and federal authorities to ensure public safety. There have been no reported injuries. We have no reason to believe this unplanned outage will pose any threat to human health or the environment.

We will report more details as they become available. Community members may also receive updates by calling the Eastman Care Line at 423-229-2273.

Copyright 2014 WJHL. All rights reserved.