TVA tackles pollution from reservoirs’ floating homes

TVA’s Lake Fontana in North Carolina provides an example of the type of floating homes getting greater scrutiny under the utility’s new policies. (© Andrew Kalat)

There are more than 1,800 floating homes in reservoirs across Tennessee Valley Authority’s territory, a number that has grown over the years despite the fact that TVA stopped permitting them in 1978.

With the unchecked growth of these homes has come unmonitored wastewater disposal practices for many of them. TVA recently put in place a plan to manage this pollution with release of its Final Environmental Impact Statement for its Floating House Policy Review.

Months earlier, SELC submitted comments on the draft version of the plan, highlighting concerns with allowing residents and visitors to dump untreated wastewater into area reservoirs, which serve as drinking water sources for many. This critical issue of wastewater disposal is in addition to concerns around abandoned, decrepit and sinking homes, litter, noise pollution, and infrastructure impacts. 

To address the wastewater concerns, TVA is asking all owners to make sure they have up-to-date permits and has decided not to issue any new permits. Additionally, they will establish a 20-year sunset period, at the end of which all floating homes will be required to leave the reservoirs.

Now that TVA will have better policies in places, mechanisms for enforcement of those regulations will be essential, as will improved data collection since there has has been little science collected to date measuring the impacts in question. 

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