Nashville Scene

By J.R. LIND

The Tennessee Valley Authority agreed to remove more than 12 million tons of coal ash from unlined pits at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and clean-up contamination at the site upstream from Nashville, settling a lawsuit filed by the state in 2015, prompted by environmental groups who long alleged the coal ash was leaching from the pits into the groundwater and ultimately into the Cumberland River.

“We are pleased to bring this matter to a positive conclusion,” David Salyers, the state’s environment and conservation commissioner, said in a release. “This settlement will resolve environmental issues at the Gallatin Fossil Plant and we look forward to continuing our work with TVA and non-governmental organizations to further protect our environment and our citizens.”

Jeffrey Lyash, who took over as the Authority’s president and CEO in April, said the TVA is committed to being a good neighbor.

“After a thorough review of the scientific evidence, and with the availability of an onsite lined landfill, TVA worked with TDEC to determine that it is the best interest of our customers, the State of Tennessee, and most importantly, our neighbors in the Gallatin community to remove the ash from the existing wet impoundments,” Lyash said in a release. “We will continue to work with TDEC and other regulators to determine site-specific solutions that are in the best interest of all those we serve, not just at Gallatin, but at all our sites.” 

The Scene profiled the Gallatin site and the efforts to clean it up in a 2017 cover story.

Under the agreement, the TVA may either move the ash from the unlined ponds into a lined landfill or recycle it for use in construction materials. The TVA is being permitted to develop its own clean up, removal and restorage plan, but does not have to reveal the plan to TDEC until September 2020 and it has 20 years to complete the project.

The settlement also requires the TVA to investigate the extent of contamination by coal ash at the Gallatin plant and to publicize the results of that investigation.

In other river news, watchdog group Tennessee Riverkeeper said it intends to sue Metro Water Services for violation of the Clean Water Act

Metro is barred from allowing sewer connections upstream of a location with “chronic overflows” — defined as more than five per year — but Riverkeeper says MWS has violated the law for at least five years.

“Riverkeeper found 146 overflows reported in the sewage collection system from February 2017 to the present. These overflows are responsible for well over 4,775,800 gallons of raw sewage going into the Cumberland River and its tributaries,” Riverkeeper founder David Whiteside said in a release.

MWS does not comment on pending litigation.

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