Tennessee Valley Authority Faces Pollution Lawsuit

By Mack Wilowski, National News Assistant Editor

Environmental groups are considering taking the Tennessee Valley Authority to court over claims that waste and other hazardous materials from an aging coal plant polluted the Cumberland River, situated just north of Nashville. The actions of the TVA are considered to be in violation of the Clean Water Act enacted in 1972. According to ABC News, two organizations engaged in confronting the TVA include the Tennessee Clean Water Network and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility firm and power provider across nine Southern U.S. states, claims it adhered to environmental requirements and did not contaminate local water sources. A second coalition of opponents including the Sierra Group and Protect Our Aquifer decided to file a lawsuit against the TVA on Wednesday as per the Memphis Daily News. The groups oppose the utility firm’s construction of new water wells to be used in conjunction with its Combined Cycle Plant outside Memphis.

The Clean Water and Scenic Rivers Association contend that pollutants have gradually been seeping into groundwater sources and local streams as waste material from the 1950’s-era Gallatin Water Plant, under operation by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The groups also contend that state regulations have not adequately addressed the problem of pollution, referencing a statement made in 2015 regarding the issue.

As the Cumberland River is a major river and a tributary of the Mississippi River, it is a major local water source for residents of central Tennessee and parts of Kentucky. The river is the main suppliant of fresh water for the city of Nashville, and many local residents have wells catering to their drinking needs. Environmental officials previously informed residents that the public water supply met adequate health standards, according to ABC News. However, the studies reported high levels of a chemical normally used for industrial processes within the water supply. At certain levels, the chemical may increase cancer risk and is known to cause health problems.

Local resident Albert Hudson is set to testify on behalf of Clean Water and the Scenic Rivers Association due to his concerns regarding the drinking water.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has sought to shed more light on the situation, stating it is investing billions of dollars in safer methods of storing coal ash and reducing the environmental harm of burning coal. This includes converting its wet-ash storage to dry-ash storage, a move that was enforced and implemented after 2008 coal ash disaster, in which the Kingston mining plan malfunctioned resulting in a spill of toxic materials into a nearby lake community. In an interview with Nashville Scene, Scott Brooks, a spokesperson and executive at TVA, has stated that the organization is committed to promoting positive environmental standard is aware of issues faced by local communities.

Environmental protection is a top priority in this case. The Tennessee Valley Authority will need to await the outcomes in federal and state courts before enacting further practices to reduce the negative impact of coal on the environment. Cooperating with the Clean Water Network and Scenic Rivers Association and permitting them to examine Tennessee Valley Authority construction sites will allow the issues to be confronted more quickly.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 7th print edition.

Contact Mack at



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