- The United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee has ruled in favor of environmental groups who say leaving coal waste in unlined pits threatens drinking water and violates the Clean Water Act.
- U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw last week directed the Tennessee Valley Authority to move the waste to lined pits, ruling that leaving it in place would gamble with future safety and ensure more litigation.
- TVA officials say it could cost $2 billion to remove the ash, while capping it in place would cost about one-tenth of that figure.
Officials at TVA are still reviewing the judge's order, they told Power Magazine, and have not yet determined if they will appeal. But on two points, the federally-owned utility is adamant: capping in place is dramatically cheaper, and there is no evidence of any threat to the environment or humans at this point.
Capping the pond in place would likely cost about $230 million, according to TVA.
While the judge agreed that no threats have been found yet at the Gallatin site, he also determined that leaving the waste in place would be akin to "rolling the dice."
Waverly said in his decision that “if capping in place did prove inadequate, the likely, if not inevitable, result would be yet more litigation — and, of course, decade after decade of the public simply having to hope that whatever unplanned, incidental leakage that was coming from the impoundments was not enough to do them significant harm."
The case was brought by the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association and the Tennessee Clean Water Network.
TVA's Gallatin plant is located on almost 2,000 acres on the north bank of the Cumberland River in Sumner County, Tenn. The plant has four units with a total capacity of 976 MW. All four units have been operating since the 1950s.
The Gallatin coal ash issue is similar to other cases. Last year, TVA issued a report on its plans to address coal ash waste at its Bull Run coal plant. Environmentalists, however, say the waste is already below the groundwater table and cannot be left in place.