Press Release | October 23, 2015

Test results confirm TVA’s coal ash leaking into Cumberland River and impacting drinking water

Nashville, TN—Today Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Clean Water Network, and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association released test results confirming that sediment in the Cumberland River near Tennessee Valley Authority’s Gallatin Fossil Plant is polluted with high levels of toxic coal ash.  The Cumberland River is the source of drinking water for City of Gallatin, Nashville, and others in Tennessee.

These conservation groups filed a lawsuit against TVA last spring alleging that TVA has been illegally contaminating Old Hickory Lake and the Cumberland River with coal ash leaking into groundwater and surface water from unlined storage pits along the river. Today these groups released test results showing that a sediment sample collected from the river bottom near the Gallatin plant is composed mostly of coal ash.

At the urging of these conservation groups, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) tested water samples near the Gallatin site for coal ash contamination. TDEC recently released the test results, which showed that hexavalent chromium and boron, known coal ash indicators, were detected in two private drinking water wells near the Gallatin plant. A water sample taken in the Cumberland River at the City of Gallatin drinking water intake revealed the presence of hexavalent chromium at levels above the EPA Risk-Based Screening Level. 

The test results were included in documents filed today by Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“Recent test results confirm that contamination is serious, ongoing, and could harm the environment and people who live near the Gallatin Plant and whose drinking water is drawn nearby,” said Beth Alexander, SELC Senior Attorney.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center: The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of about 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

About Tennessee Clean Water Network: Tennessee Clean Water Network is a nonprofit organization created to advocate for strong policies and programs that result in more effective protection and restoration of Tennessee’s waters and to educate organizations, decision-makers and the public about important water resource issues.

About Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association: The Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association (TSRA) is a volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of the scenic, free-flowing rivers of our state. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the organization has approximately 1,000 members across the state and the south.

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