By MICHAEL SCHIEGER, AP Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt will announce Thursday he is ordering the agency to conduct an independent investigation into a toxic waste spill at a power plant near Nashville that killed at least seven people and sickened more than 400.
The agency will also require the utility to pay for the cleanup and to take corrective action, Pruitt said Thursday in a statement.
The plant, owned by Southern Co., was leaking toxic chemicals from a tank into a nearby creek and was shut down in February after a state-led investigation.
Pruitt’s office said in February that it was confident the plant was safe.
Southern Co. said Thursday that the toxic waste spilled into the creek, but the EPA’s office has not been able to determine whether it is the source of the spill.
The spill occurred at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) water treatment plant near downtown Nashville, which operates a large nuclear power plant in Nashville.
The plant, located near Interstate 35, was shut off for two weeks and reopened for operations on Jan. 18, according to the TVA.
The toxic waste was sent to a facility in Texas for treatment and disposal.
The Texas Department of State Health Services has since determined that the spill is not the source, the TVS said.
The Tennessean reported Wednesday that an investigation by the state Department of Environmental Quality found that the TVT plant’s water system was not properly monitored and treated, and that some workers were exposed to the chemical in the plant’s ventilation system.
The EPA is currently investigating a number of issues with the TVW’s handling of the toxic materials.
The Environmental Protection Administration, under Pruitt, has been criticized for taking years to investigate and prosecute companies that violate the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws, which are considered major priorities by the White House.
In recent months, the agency has stepped up enforcement of existing rules, including the Clean Power Plan and a separate rule that requires energy companies to make their wastewater treatment facilities more environmentally friendly.