TVA Faces Over A Dozen Suits Over Fly Ash SpillNov 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
Legal filings made just prior to the holiday almost doubled lawsuits now pending against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) over the December 22nd Kingston fly ash spill.
The massive and catastrophic spill—the largest of its kind—dumped an incomprehensible 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic coal sludge and associated toxins into Tennessee’s Emory and Clinch rivers and the 300 acres surrounding the TVA’s Kingston plant. The spill highlighted issues with contaminants in coal ash. For instance, we previously wrote that an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report stated that some “potentially toxic pollutants,” such as mercury and arsenic, found in coal ash, could present serious health and environmental problems.
Now, lawyers for 11 plaintiffs filed six lawsuits against the TVA, said Knoxville News. The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville between November 16 and 23, bringing the total number to 14, said Knoxville News, citing legal records. The accident decimated three homes, damaging another two dozen, said Knoxville News.
Two of the new filings indicate dollar amounts for damages allegedly caused by the spill; “two plaintiffs in Armes v. TVA are seeking compensatory damages up to $10 million and punitive damages up to $20 million” and “two plaintiffs in Wallace v. TVA are seeking up to $600,000 in compensatory damages and up to $1 million in punitive damages,” reported Knoxville News. Unspecified damages are sought in the other four cases, it added. Most allegations concern claims that the federal utility’s negligence resulted in the accident, while the TVA argues it is protected under federal law, said KnoxNews.
According to TVA's just-released annual report, it "has received several notices of intent to sue under various environmental statutes from both individuals and environmental groups," an indication other lawsuits might be pending, said KnoxNews. As of September 30th, said KnoxNews, citing the report, the utility has spent some $69 million to settle other claims, including $42 million for 145 tracts/600 acres of land near the plant. The clean up, expected to go on for two more years, is expected to cost $1.2 billion, not including judgments and litigation costs, said KnoxNews.
Earlier this year we wrote that information pointing to “significantly higher cancer risks” for those living near coal-fired power plant ash dumps was allegedly covered up by the recent Bush Administration, citing a report by EnvironmentalIntegrity.org. Numerous studies concluded that coal dumps leach dangerous toxins into the environment that can cause cancer, birth defects, and other serious health outcomes in water and wildlife populations, including frightening guarantees of developing cancer from drinking contaminated water and suffering damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and other organs from toxic metal exposure, such as cadmium, cobalt, lead, and other pollutants far above levels considered safe,” said Environmental Integrity, previously.
The group noted that the danger to wildlife and ecosystems is “off the charts, with one contaminant—boron—expected to leach into the environment at levels two thousand times thresholds generally considered to be safe.” The toxin has killed aquatic wildlife, contaminated wells, and adversely affected wildlife, according to an earlier Tennessean piece, with the causes linked to coal ash wastewater. “Many of the common pollutants found in coal combustion wastewater (e.g., selenium, mercury, and arsenic) are known to cause environmental harm and can potentially represent a human health risk,” said the report, quoted the Tennessean.