State sues TVA over Gallatin Power Plant

Last Updated On Jan 8, 2015

In an article in "The Tennessean", the state of Tennessee is looking to enforce action and fines against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) because of proposed coal ash pollution seeping into the groundwater, which would include the Cumberland River, the region's main source of drinking water.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Attorney General say this lawsuit will also help determine how much contamination there is. The agencies' filing states that there could be a total of 10 spots that could be show unpermitted discharge and potential violations of the law.

Scott Brooks, the spokesman for TVA stated that they are still reviewing the state's notice and welcomed their assistance in addressing any issues concerning TVA's activities at Gallatin.

The agencies are seeking a permanent injunction that would create a timeline for TVA to come into compliance with environment law, specifically at its Gallatin Fossil Plant. The Gallatin plant is the closest coal-fired power plant to Nashville. They are also asking a Davidson County judge to impose fines for any violations that have occurred.

Those fines could be up to $7,000 and $10,000 per day, and per violation, of the Tennessee Solid Waste Management Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act, respectively.

Brooks did say that in accordance to its state permits, TVA provides groundwater monitoring near coal ash storage sites.

He continued to say that the data does show some isolated contaminants, but almost all results are within applicable groundwater protection standards and that a few higher readings were found near an ash pond that has not been used since 1970.

"TVA studies, prepared at the direction of TDEC, conclude this poses little if any risk of health or environmental impacts," Brooks said. "An additional study is planned to confirm this."

The Gallatin Fossil Plant burns up to 13,000 tons of coal a day producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of around 300,000 homes. 

TVA is amid a five-year effort to significantly cut mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions through a project costing more than $1 billion.

Environmental groups filed initial paperwork to sue TVA, contending that harmful pollutants have been seeping from 55-year-old coal ash storage ponds at the power plant.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, acting on behalf of the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TDEC and TVA of its intent to sue in November. That 60-day notice opened the window for TDEC and the EPA to take action.

"The lawsuit filed today appears to address the most serious coal ash problems at the Gallatin ponds," Stephanie Durman Matheny, attorney for the Tennessee Clean Water Network, said in a statement. "While we appreciate the state taking this action today, ultimately it will be the environmental results that count. We hope and expect that the results achieved through this lawsuit will protect public health and the environment."

Source: The Tennessean

Topics: Power plant