Coal Ash Spill Litigation - Written by Beasley Allen on Tuesday, September 8, 2009 14:32 - 0 Comments
Our firm filed a class action lawsuit in January on behalf of residents and property owners affected by the catastrophic release of over a billion gallons of coal ash sludge. As we have reported, the release occurred on December 22, 2008 when a coal ash impoundment at the Tennessee Valley Authority Kingston Fossil Plant ruptured, sending a deluge of toxic slurry onto over 300 acres and into nearby waterways.
According to a report from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s internal watchdog, the utility knowingly schemed to divert an investigation into the cause of the massive coal ash spill. This appears to be an effort to protect itself from lawsuits arising out of the spill. TVA also is trying to restore its tattered public image. The report suggests the nation’s largest utility tried desperately to keep the public from knowing the complete story behind the cause of the spill, which, as we have reported previously, destroyed more than two dozen homes and created one of the nation’s largest environmental disasters. As you will recall, more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash were spilled onto the neighboring community and waterway. The author of the report, Richard Moore, the utility’s Inspector General, stated:
It appears the TVA management made a conscious decision to present to the public only facts that supported an absence of liability for TVA for the Kingston spill.
According to the Inspector General’s report, the real blame for the spill lies with TVA management for not taking measures to address issues regarding the structural integrity of the Kingston coal ash pond. Those issues initially were raised in a 1985 internal memo, and again in 2004 in two engineering reports. This latest released report states that, “necessary systems, controls, standards and culture were not in place” at the TVA to prevent a disaster like the one that occurred at Kingston. That is pretty much to the point and confirms what we have learned so far in the pending litigation arising out of the spill.
Meanwhile, the affected area in eastern Tennessee continues to suffer from the ramifications of the largest industrial accident in U.S. history. The volume of the TVA coal sludge spill was about 100 times greater than the volume of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The latest estimate for cleanup costs is about $1.2 billion.
TVA recently announced that it will incur additional expenses in converting all of its fly ash ponds to dry disposal methods over the next eight years in hopes of avoiding another spill like the 12/22 disaster in Kingston. TVA plans to capture fly ash from the plant stack using dry techniques instead of storing coal ash sludge in retention ponds. Six of TVA’s 11 coal-fired power plants currently use wet storage, including the Widows Creek plant in Alabama.
Our goal, on behalf of individuals and a class of clients in this lawsuit, is to bring about a complete clean-up of the area; ensure that people affected are fully compensated for the damage to their property, including the loss in property values; and to obtain long-term medical monitoring relief for area residents who have been exposed to the toxic contaminants in TVA’s coal ash sludge. While the litigation is still in the early stages, quite a bit of work has been accomplished thus far. Corporate Representative depositions have started, and our lawyers are working with a group of lawyers on the various discovery issues that a case of this magnitude involves.
Sources: Chattanooga Free Press, Knoxville News Sentinel; Associated Press, Gannett News Service
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