12 Million Cubic Yards of Toxic Waste

TCWN celebrates a major victory today, but a bittersweet one. Nearly five years after TCWN and TN Scenic Rivers Association sent an intent-to-sue notice to TVA for toxic pollution in the groundwater and adjacent surface waters at its coal-fired power plant in Gallatin, TVA has signed a settlement agreement that requires 12 million cubic yards of waste to be excavated and either securely stored or recycled. The settlement was filed today.

Photo credit: Southern Environmental Law Center

As far back as the 1960s, coal-fired power plants knew the ash waste they generated was toxic. In Virginia in 1969, a coal ash pit burst and caused a massive fish kill in the adjacent water. In the decades between that travesty and the horrors that unfolded in Kingston in 2008 - which is still causing problems - TVA accumulated massive evidence of the toxicity of its waste. TVA engineers warned of the potential for disaster from insecure ash ponds. And still TVA continued to dump its waste directly onto the ground - in leaky, unlined pits. The beautiful Cumberland River, on which TVA's Gallatin plant sits, was the recipient of the polluted groundwater, but now the Cumberland River downstream of TVA's Gallatin Power Plant - and all area residents - will be safer from industrial pollution. I say the victory is bittersweet because in the time it took TVA to fight this losing battle, and for the estimated 20 years it will take to complete the excavation, those heavy metals and other toxicants have seeped and will continue to seep into the ground. Plus, TVA's Gallatin site is not the only one with leaking, unlined toxic waste pits. Coal ash at Allen Fossil Plant in Memphis, Bull Run in Claxton, and other TVA sites are still polluting. As long as Tennesseans continue to support organizations like Tennessee Clean Water Network and other watchdogs throughout the state, good work can continue. Without the gracious donations of TCWN members, we would not exist. Please donate or become a member today so that TCWN can continue to safeguard our beautiful Tennessee waters.

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