TVA finalizes damaging plan to leave coal ash in place

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s decision to leave millions of tons of coal ash in place keeps at risk drinking water sources for over 3 million residents in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. (© SELC)

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced its decision today to move forward with a plan that leaves millions of tons of coal ash in leaking, unlined pits across the Southeast. TVA’s decision to continue polluting groundwater indefinitely poses serious risk to drinking water sources for 3 million residents—2,300,000 in Tennessee and 700,000 in Alabama, according to data and a map recently released by SELC.

“TVA admits that removing the coal ash from unlined, leaking pits is the best way to reduce groundwater contamination risk and avoid decades of potential exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, yet it has decided to risk our communities’ health anyway,” said Nashville Staff Attorney Amanda Garcia. “Of all utilities, as a federal utility and the one responsible for the Kingston spill, TVA should be the one making a decision that protects the public health and our water supplies.”

Earlier in July, several environmental and citizen groups submitted comments on TVA’s final environmental impact statement urging the utility to clean up its coal ash instead of leaving to pollute in place. They raised concerns about TVA’s plan, due to the fact that TVA’s own monitoring data show that sites are polluting groundwater with toxic metals from coal ash, and that the agency has not characterized or quantified—let alone analyzed—the impacts of leaving coal ash in place.

“Today’s decision by TVA is unfortunate,” said Keith Johnson, SELC’s managing attorney in Birmingham. “Their decision to leave 10 coal ash impoundments in unlined, leaking pits next to our rivers means that they are guaranteeing pollution of our groundwater and waterways for decades to come.”

Learn more about SELC’s ongoing coal ash litigation here.

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