Last Friday a federal court ruled in an ongoing lawsuit against Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for coal ash leaks at its Gallatin Fossil Plant. TVA must now excavate and move its coal ash from a leaking, unlined pit to an appropriate safe lined site.
Filed in April of 2015 by lawyers for the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of two petitioners - Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, and Tennessee Clean Water Network, the lawsuit claimed leaks from coal ash storage pits at the Gallatin plant have created pollutants in the Cumberland River for decades.
In a press release, a plaintiff representative said the agencies were optimistic about the outcome.
"This is a huge victory for the people of Tennessee and for all those fighting to ensure that we have clean water in our state and in our country," said Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney Beth Alexander. "Like at Kingston, it was necessary to take TVA to court to force it to take responsibility for its coal ash pollution. TVA will be required to do the right thing again, this time at Gallatin."
Judge Waverly Crenshaw said in the ruling that as long as coal ash remained at the Gallatin site there would continue to be risks associated with this toxic pollutant.
"It is difficult to imagine why anyone would choose to build an unlined ash waste pond in karst terrain immediately adjacent to a river," said Judge Waverly Crenshaw in his order. "While the decision to build the Ash Pond Complex is in the past, the consequences of that decision continue today, and it now falls on the Court to address them. The way to do so is not to cover over those decades-old mistakes, but to pull them up by their roots. TVA, as the entity responsible for the ponds, must be the entity to do so."
On Monday, Scott Brooks with TVA said the agency is reviewing the order to determine out their steps.
"It is important to note that there has been no environmental harm or adverse human health impacts shown to be connected with coal ash storage at Gallatin," Brooks said. "TVA remains committed to protecting the environment as we work to eliminate wet storage of coal combustion residuals at fossil plants and convert our current CCR operations to dry storage at Gallatin and across our system."