Press Release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, June 13, 2019:
TVA must move material from coal ash ponds to a lined landfill or recycle it
NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III today announced a settlement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of a lawsuit against TVA and the management of coal combustion residuals at its Gallatin plant.
“We are pleased to bring this matter to a positive conclusion,” said David Salyers, commissioner of TDEC. “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.”
“We are very pleased with the diligence and hard work from all parties involved in reaching this compromise and settling the matters in dispute,” said Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III.
The settlement requires TVA to remove approximately 12 million cubic yards of coal combustion residuals (CCR) from its active coal ash ponds at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, as well as remediate the area, in accordance with Tennessee law. Under the agreement, TVA may either place the excavated material in a lined, permitted landfill or recycle the material for beneficial reuse in concrete or other construction materials.
The settlement announced today also requires TVA to complete a final environmental assessment report to identify the extent of soil, surface water and groundwater contamination at the facility.
“This agreement to resolve the Gallatin litigation with the State and TDEC underscores TVA’s commitment to safety and the environment,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA’s President and CEO.
“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. 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.”
TDEC filed the lawsuit in Davidson County Chancery Court in 2015, alleging violations of the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act as a result of TVA’s coal ash disposal practices at the Gallatin plant. In November 2014, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association sent a 60-day notice of violation letter to TVA, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and TDEC under a provision of the federal Clean Water Act, alleging multiple violations at the Gallatin plant related to its operations of the ash ponds at the site.
“After years of tireless advocacy by our clients, Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association, we’re pleased to have been able to work with the State of Tennessee to achieve a resolution that will safely remove and clean up coal ash from TVA’s leaking, unlined pits at Gallatin,” said Amanda Garcia, Managing Attorney for SELC’s Tennessee office. “This case has helped to protect the Cumberland River, a precious resource for drinking water and recreation in Middle Tennessee.”
TVA will have to close units at its coal ash pond complex in Gallatin by removing coal combustion residuals and remediating the area consistent with the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Act. Under the agreement, TVA must develop a plan for the removal of the material and submit the plan to TDEC for approval.
TVA must submit its plan by no later than September 30, 2020. TVA must also provide a copy of its proposed plan for removal to the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association. The citizens groups will have 30 days to provide comments on the proposal and provide a copy of their comments to TVA.
TVA must complete removal of the ash pond complex within 20 years of TDEC’s final approval of the plan.
TVA began operation of the Gallatin plant in 1956. Coal combustion residuals generated at the plant have been sluiced and treated in a series of on-site, unlined settling and stilling ponds.
The settlement of the lawsuit allows TVA to conduct a treatability test and field demonstration at the facility’s legacy CCR disposal site for five years. At the conclusion of the project, TVA will submit a corrective action/risk assessment plan to TDEC outlining corrective measures for closure of the legacy site and remediation of groundwater contamination.
The case has been before Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins.