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BREAKING: TVA Liable for Massive Tenn. Coal Ash Spill

Energy

Waterkeeper Alliance

By Donna Lisenby

Watauga Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby takes water samples on December 27, 2008 while paddling between giant ash bergs created by the 1 billion gallon TVA Kingston coal ash spill into the Emory River in Tennessee. Photo credit: John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeper.

Waterkeeper Alliance salutes today's ruling by federal district court Judge Thomas Varlan stating that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was negligent in its conduct and will be held liable for damages caused by their massive coal ash spill into the Emory River and the surrounding community of Harriman, Tennessee on Dec. 22, 2008.

This ruling is an important victory for the people and the waterway that were devastated by this preventable tragedy when a 70 foot tall dam catastrophically and suddenly failed at 1 a.m., sending more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash from TVA's Kingston coal fired power plant into the surrounding community and the Emory River.

Varlan ruled today that the spill was caused by a combination of TVA's dike design, continued wet coal ash storage at the plant and geological conditions.

"Had TVA followed its own mandatory policies, procedures and practices, the subsurface issues underlying the failure of North Dike would have been investigated, addressed and potentially remedied before the catastrophic failure of December 22, 2008," said Varlan.

This case has national significance not only because it is the largest coal ash spill in the history of the U.S., but because there are 1,000 more coal ash ponds at coal fired power plants across the nation. As illustrated in the video below by Alexandra Cousteau of Blue Legacy, coal ash is toxic to waterways and aquatic life because it contains a vast array of heavy metals and other pollutants:

In order to protect communities from toxic coal ash, the U.S. EPA released new rules to regulate the waste but they have been stalled by legislative interference in Congress. A handful of Senators working for the benefit of the polluting coal industry is seeking to remove the U.S. EPA's federal authority to regulate coal ash with the rotten new Senate Bill 3512.

Let Judge Varlan's ruling inspire you to take action to defeat Senate Bill 3512. Join Waterkeeper Alliance and Alexandra Cousteau to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act in Washington, DC on Thursday, Sept. 13.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit EcoWatch’s CLEAN WATER ACT and COAL pages for more related news on this topic.

 

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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