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Tennessee Fly Ash Spill Lawsuit Seeks $165 Mil From TVA

Dec 31, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP A developer is the first Tennessee landowner to file a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for last week's devastating fly ash spill.  The lawsuit is seeking $165 million in damages from the TVA.

The Tennessee fly ash spill occurred  around 1:00 a.m. last Monday morning after  a wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant in central Tennessee broke.  Though the exact cause of the accident was not known, it was thought that six inches of rain over the previous 10 days and overnight temperatures in the teens contributed to the dam breach.

The TVA said that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, making it 48 times larger than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. The authority now says that  5.4 million cubic yards of potentially toxic fly ash was released from a retention pond. According to the Knoxville News, that’s triple the estimate of  1.7 million cubic yards the TVA released earlier this week. The fly ash spill damaged  15 homes. All the residents were  evacuated, but at least three homes were deemed uninhabitable.  

Earlier this week, the TVA warned residents in the area against drinking water from private wells or springs, as tests in the area showed high levels of arsenic.  The TVA has also released an inventory of the toxic compounds that had been deposited into the coal ash retention pond during 2007. These include more than a million pounds of barium compounds, and tens of thousands of pounds of lead, manganese and arsenic compounds.   

Developer Jot Raymond and his wife Brenda were among the property owners whose land was damaged by the fly ash spill.  Their lawsuit, which was filed in Roane County Circuit Court, says that coal ash sludge from the retention pond spilled into their North Lake Estates development, causing two home sales to fall through. The suit claims  a creek running through the development has been damaged and is backed up as a  result.  According to, Jot Raymond said he has not been allowed to take potential buyers into the subdivision for showings or visit his daughter who lives there.

"TVA possessed or reasonably should have possessed knowledge and data which indicated the retention pond was subject to collapse or breach," the lawsuit says.  

The Raymonds are seeking 15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.  TVA, its board of directors, President and CEO Tom Kilgore and other TVA executives are named as defendants.

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