Spin Control: Ameren Blames It on Rita for September Taum Sauk Overflow

A press release from Ameren says the September overflow at Taum Sauk was caused by waves from Hurricane Rita.

The release notes:

“At every step of the way, on and after Sept. 25, our employees took steps they believed were sufficient to protect the facility’s safety,” Voss says. “In hindsight, those steps proved inadequate to avoid the Dec. 14 overtopping that resulted in significant damage to the Johnson’s Shut-Ins state park and injury to a family of five.”

Here are key findings from AmerenUE’s initial investigation of the Sept. 25 event:

* Contrary to media reports, the Sept. 25 event did not cause the event of Dec. 14 and was not a result of pumping water over the top of the reservoir; instead, the water spilled on Sept. 25 was the result of wave action due to high winds from Hurricane Rita and slightly elevated reservoir levels. In addition, the company has found no evidence to indicate that water had ever been pumped over the top of the upper reservoir prior to Dec. 14.

* Following the Sept. 25 incident, the company reviewed instrumentation reports, discovered problems with the sensors indicating water levels in the upper reservoir and lowered set points for those water levels.

* AmerenUE did not report the wave action of Sept. 25 to FERC because the company did not believe that this condition was a reportable incident.

n FERC last inspected the facility in August 2005 before the wave action event on Sept. 25.

Voss also added that the company has always accepted full responsibility for the Dec. 14 breach.

Meanwhile the AP saw the logs of the September incident:

A worker “called and said the wind is blowing so hard it’s blowing big waves of water out of upper pond and flooding the road,” a log note read. Another stated, “The water is blowing out so hard, there (sic) afraid it will erode” the reservoir wall.

Ameren: Earlier spill at reservoir blamed partly on hurricane
AP via St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 19, 2006

AmerenUE Cites Significant Differences between Sept. 25 Wave Action at Taum Sauk Upper Reservoir and Dec. 14 Overtopping/Flooding Incident
Official Ameren Press Release via PRNewswire
January 19, 2006

There are few tracking maps left for Hurricane Rita after it lost its punch and Tropical Storm status in southwestern Arkansas. However the storm took a sharp turn to the right (east) and affected weather throughout the Midwest.

Meanwhile the disaster does not appear to have seriously hurt Ameren’s stock which was tradining higher than Standard & Poor’s and was affected by a general October mini crash than the December disaster.

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