As reported in the September edition, a federal judge recently ruled that TVA’s negligent conduct caused the massive coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. in December 2008. In August of this year – nearly four years after the disaster occurred – U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan found that TVA failed to investigate, address and potentially remedy the underlying problems with the coal ash pond dike leading up to the spill of over 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge into the community and adjacent rivers. This ruling came after the Phase I trial in the Fall of 2011 on the issue of liability, and Plaintiffs may now go forward to prove their damages against TVA in a Phase II trial.
Nearly 600 local property owners and businesses filed suit against TVA in the aftermath of the spill to hold TVA accountable for damages to their property values and way of life on Watts Bar Lake. This once tranquil lake community is now the site of a massive environmental cleanup that TVA projects will last until 2015. Only recently did EPA and TVA begin the decision-making process to determine how to handle the remaining 500,000 cubic yards of coal ash sludge that remains at the bottom of the Emory, Clinch, and Tennessee rivers that make up Watts Bar lake. The plans could include additional dredging of the river bottoms; capping the ash by covering it with stone; or leaving the ash on the river bottoms to let natural processes cover and erode away the ash over time. Some have suggested that a combination of those methods should be used. Regardless of which method(s), the estimated $1.2 billion cleanup likely will continue for more than another year – approximately seven years after the spill occurred.
Plaintiffs in this litigation are pleased that the damages phase of the litigation will begin soon. In his ruling, Judge Varlan ordered the parties to submit proposed trial plans to structure the damages phase of the trial. Both TVA and Plaintiffs submitted plans in mid-September and now await a ruling from the Judge on how he would like to structure the damages phase.
If you need additional information on this litigation, contact Rhon Jones or Brantley Fry in our office at 800-898-2034 or by email at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.com or Brantley.Fry@beasleyallen.com.
Source: The Associated Press, The Huntsville Times, and The Knoxville News Sentinel
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