Weitz & Luxenberg P.C., together with Nashville, TN counsel May and Ryan, PLC have filed an environmental lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on behalf of 109 citizens in Roane County and surrounding areas. This legal action is prompted by a dike breach at the TVA plant, which led to the spill of over a billion gallons of toxic coal fly ash waste. This compromised the health of nearby residents, swept homes off their foundations, and devastated a once-beautiful and serene river-front area, making it dangerous to inhabit.
“The residents in these communities have suffered tremendously at the hands of this power plant, which has improperly housed this 40-acre holding pond of waste with wanton disregard for the health and welfare of its neighbors,” said Robin Greenwald, head of the Environmental Toxic Torts unit at Weitz & Luxenberg.
The firm is no stranger to holding corporate entities responsible for acts of pollution, recently securing a landmark MTBE settlement against some of the country’s biggest oil companies, which have paid in excess of $425 million in a suit involving the contamination of 153 public water systems nationally.
The 11-count complaint (No. 3:09-cv-54) seeks compensatory damages for devalued property and loss of use and enjoyment of that property; increased risk of future health problems; emotional distress and mental anguish, and fear of cancer. The suit also seeks testing and monitoring of the contaminated areas, injunction preventing TVA from engaging in further acts of pollution, and ensuring it takes necessary measures to remedy the contamination.
The December 22, 2008 spill of coal ash sludge released 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic waste into the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee rivers, and covered more than 300 acres of land. The sludge contains radioactive substances and toxic pollutants, including arsenic, lead and thallium, which are extremely hazardous to human health. Lead and thallium can cause birth defects and reproductive system disorders, neurological damage and other health problems.
Famed environmental advocate Erin Brockovich visited concerned families in Tennessee with Greenwald. “Science usually lags behind the law. But in this case, law lags behind science because coal fly ash handling is not regulated as it should be,” said Brockovich, adding, “And we have a pretty good grasp on the fact that coal fly ash is not healthy.”
TVA has had ongoing problems with containing its waste at the Kingston plant, dating back to 1984. An internal inspection by TVA in December 2007 revealed numerous issues with the containment structures enclosing its Class II landfill. A subsequent 2008 report found that TVA’s ash retention ponds, containment structures, dikes and other system components suffered from a multitude of critical defects and failures. According to TVA’s 1984 annual inspection report, an interior dike of the pond failed that year. The report also noted the exterior walls weren’t designed for additional loads.
People who have been affected by the TVA coal ash spill may contact us for a free case review via the form.