TVA appeals Gallatin coal ash clean-up order - WSMV News 4

TVA appeals Gallatin coal ash clean-up order

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) filed an appeal on Monday disputing a federal order requiring them to dig up and dispose of coal ash that contaminated clean water in Old Hickory Lake near their Gallatin Fossil Plant.

The decision in August was a huge win for environmental groups like Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and Tennessee Clean Water Network, who sued TVA with the Southern Environmental Law Center for violating the Clean Water Act.

The appeal, which will delay the project, they say is a cause for concern.

"We believe the right decision was already made in this case,” said Southern Environmental Law Center Senior Attorney Beth Alexander. “TVA should do the responsible thing for Tennesseans and abide by the judge’s ruling to move this toxic coal ash to dry, lined storage. The federal utility has already spent years polluting our drinking water sources and this case proved it with scientific evidence."

Multiple unlined, leaking coal ash ponds near the Gallatin plant holding more than 2.5 billion gallons of coal waste were slowly leaking a host of toxic substances, like arsenic, iron, aluminum, manganese, and lead, into Tennessee waterways for more than 60 years before the problem was discovered and addressed. 

TVA says the clean-up ordered by the judge, which calls for total excavation and removal of ash to another location with lined pits, will cost them up to $2 billion to execute. 

In their appeal proposal, they propose another method called "closure in place," or simply capping the pits and leaving the ash where it is. TVA says it would be safer and more environmentally friendly -- and it would cost them substantially less, around $230 million. 

When News 4 reached out to TVA Spokesperson Scott Brooks, he said they plan to comply with the court ruling during the appeals process:

"The filing of the notice in the district court initiates the appeal process, and TVA’s legal positions will be presented under a schedule that will be established by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In the meantime, TVA is moving forward with our plans to comply with the court order. Complying with the order to remove the ash at Gallatin is a significant investment in time and resources on behalf of consumers of TVA power. We feel it is important for TVA to exercise our legal option to appeal the ruling."

Environmentalists disagree, saying TVA is wasting precious time they could be cleaning up the hazardous material with further litigation that serves their bottom line. 

“TVA has consistently exaggerated the time and cost of cleanup,” Alexander said..  “It needs to stop litigating and get to work cleaning up its pollution of the Cumberland River. We can’t afford any more delay, recent test results confirm that contamination levels at the site are even worse than first projected. If TVA was going to move the coal ash regardless, it's unclear why the federal utility would want the court's order reversed.” 

The appeals schedule for the case has yet to be announced. 

Stay with News 4 on-air and online for updates on this developing story. 

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