News | January 14, 2016

Lawsuit threatened against TVA for known violations at leaky Cumberland Fossil Plant

Today SELC filed a notice of intent to sue Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in federal court over violations of the Clean Water Act at TVA’s Cumberland Fossil Plant. TVA’s own studies show that more than forty years of storing coal ash waste in unlined pits is illegally contaminating groundwater, Wells Creek, and the Cumberland River with harmful pollutants. SELC is representing the Sierra Club in the case.

TVA’s own reports indicate that it knowingly stored forty years of toxic coal ash waste at the Cumberland plant without any type of protective lining over the fractured bedrock. The utility has years of sampling data that clearly shows the groundwater beneath the coal ash ponds is polluted with metals in amounts harmful to people and the environment, and that the contaminated groundwater flow is connected to Wells Creek and the Cumberland River. TVA documents admit that these violations should have triggered the state environmental agency to initiate corrective measures. However, to date TVA has taken no action to clean up the contaminated groundwater at the Cumberland plant and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) has not filed any action in court to compel the cleanup.

“We are doubling down to put an end to decades of coal ash pollution in the Cumberland River since state regulators are not acting to protect people or environment of Tennessee,“ said Beth Alexander, senior attorney. “TVA needs to move all of its coal ash throughout the state to dry, lined storage away from waterways.”

Gallatin coal ash

TVA is already a defendant in two lawsuits over coal ash pollution at its Gallatin plant upstream from Nashville. The first is a federal lawsuit brought by SELC on behalf of Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association over coal ash contamination of the Cumberland River and Old Hickory Lake. Those same groups are also participating in the lawsuit the state of Tennessee filed against TVA a year ago in state court for coal ash pollution from the Gallatin power plant in violation of Tennessee law.