TVA Hit By State, Federal Lawsuits Over Ash Spill

posted on:
January 12, 2009

author:
Staff Reporter

category:
Environmental

Two federal class action lawsuits seeking at least $5 million each and a state complaint asking $165 million in damages have been filed against the Tennessee Valley Authority over the Dec. 22 ash spill in Kingston.

Oak Ridge attorney Michael Ritter filed suit in Roane County Circuit Court asking for $15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages in behalf of Roane County residents Jot and Brenda Raymond.

Larry Mays and others lodged the first federal suit at Knoxville over the huge spill.

That was followed by a similar complaint brought by Mary Margaret Blanchard, Terry and Sandra Gupton, Fred Pierce, Jerry and Charlotte Strandberg and Gary and Pam Topmiller.

Both the federal suits seek class action status.

The Mays complaint was filed by attorneys Gordon Ball and Thomas Scott of Knoxville, Bruce Fox of Clinton, Tn., and Michael Hausfeld of Washington, D.C.

Attorneys on the Blanchard suit are Mary Parker, Stephen Crofford and Parker Crofford of Nashville, Gary Davis and Rebecca Kaman of Hot Springs, N.C., and Jere Beasley and Rhon Jones of Montgomery, Ala.

The Mays suit says it is now estimated it may take months or years to clean up the spill.

It says a retaining pond was surrounded by 60-foot tall earthen walls that twice had developed leaks since 2002. It says the Dec. 22 breach caused a “tidal wave” of muck that covered hundreds of acres.

It says it covered at least 12 homes and knocked one entirely off its foundation. It says three were rendered uninhabitable and there was damage to 42 residential properties. At least 22 homes were evacuated.

The spill also washed out a road, ruptured a major gas line and destroyed power lines, the Mays suit says. It also says it “killed a huge number of fish that are washing up on the shores of several rivers, whose waters are opaque with oily gray ash, and compromised the water supply for millions of people living downstream in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.”

It says water tests showed high levels of toxic chemicals, including arsenic.

The Mays suit said the sludge was enough to fill 1,660 Olympic-size swimming pools.

It says, TVA “knew about leaks at the site for more than two decades and opted not to pay for long-term solutions to the problem.”

The Blanchard complaint says the discharge violated several federal and state environmental laws.

It says TVA “engaged in an ultra-hazardous and abnormally dangerous activity by discharging coal ash sludge and contaminated water containing toxic metals and other pollutants into the Emory River and its embayments and onto the property of plaintiffs and other class members.”

 

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