KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — An estimated 300,000 gallons of wastewater and 40 pounds of hydraulic oil were released into the South Fork of the Holston River from Eastman Chemical’s Kingsport plant Jan. 31, the day of a massive steam line rupture there.

Those were two of three wastewater-related spills summarized in a Feb. 4 email from an Eastman environmental operations manager to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC). The discharge associated with the hydraulic oil release didn’t end until late the morning of Feb. 4.

Eastman’s James Smith wrote that Eastman notified the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Response Center regarding the discharges. The first, which released an estimated 300,000 gallons (2.4 million pounds) of wastewater into the river was reported at 8 a.m. Jan. 31 to EPA. At that time, the companies “influent pumping station” wastewater was being released into the river at 20,000 gallons per minute.

“The cause of the event was a loss of power to the Building-386 influent pumping station pump that resulted in IPS waste waters overflowing the sump walls, releasing to the storm sewer and then to the river,” Smith wrote. That power outage lasted about 15 minutes and occurred shortly after the steam line rupture that area residents reported hearing from miles away.

Smith’s email notes that the estimated total discharge doesn’t exceed a federally set “reportable quantity,” but adds that Eastman notified downstream users “(i)n an excess of caution.” Those users include the First Utility District of Hawkins County, the City of Morristown water treatment plant and industrial users Domtar and BAE.

The segment says that in Eastman’s estimation “no detrimental effects to fish or aquatic life were observed,” and adds that no health risks are known to be associated with the release. It also reports Eastman personnel took action to stop the discharge “immediately.”

That same summation about wildlife and health effects is repeated in Smith’s summary of the other two Jan. 31 events. So are the facts that Eastman notified downstream users and took immediate action to stop the discharges.

A second event involved people from Eastman noting a sheen at the company’s so-called “big sluice” on the river. EPA was notified of that incident at about 2:15 p.m. on Jan. 31.

An initial Eastman investigation determined that multiple Eastman facilities on Long Island had their “deluge systems” activated. The flow from those “overwhelmed” a sewer lift station on Long Island, which normally pumps flow to Eastman’s own wastewater treatment plant. The overflows were released through the company’s outfall 004 and ended at 11:10 p.m. Jan. 31, the report says.

The final Jan. 31 EPA notification came around 3:25 p.m. and also reported a sheen on the river coming via Eastman’s industrial sewer system. “The material released was hydraulic oil and the estimated amount is 40 (pounds) which resulted in a visible sheen,” Smith wrote.

The email to TDEC doesn’t detail when Eastman believes the discharge began but says the suspected cause is the inability of chill water units in the company’s building 102 being unable to shut off. Overflow entered the industrial sewer system’s basement “and subsequently to the river” before ending four days later.

The complete email from Eastman officials to TDEC can be read below.


For complete coverage of the Eastman Steam Line Failure, click here.