As you probably have seen and heard in the news over the last week, sometime last Monday, December 22, 2008, a retention wall at a Kingston, Tennessee power plant breached, spilling hazardous waste and sludge from the impoundment into the surrounding area.
The Kingston Fossil Plant is a coal combustion plant, which is operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public power company. When the coal is burned, it produces “fly ash,” which in turns results in the byproduct sludge that had been contained and stored by the breached wall. Fly ash is known to contain mercury, arsenic, and benzene, which become concentrated and toxic in the ash when the coal is burned.
It has been estimated that the breach in the wall spilled in excess of 1 billion gallons (or 5.4 million cubic yards) of waste downhill and throughout the surrounding 400 acres of land, which is situated near the Emory and Clinch Rivers in Roane County, Tennessee. The river is a tributary of the Tennessee River. The spill directly damaged 15 homes, 3 of which were immediately deemed uninhabitable.
Several days after the spill, Tom Kilgore, President and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority, released inspection reports indicating two prior minor breaches to the retention wall – one in 2003 and one in 2006. On Sunday, December 28, Mr. Kilgore addressed an audience of folks from the Roane County Community in a local high school gym. Mr. Kilgore sounded contrite: “This is not a time where TVA holds its head high,” vowing “we will clean it up … clean it up right.” The Environmental Protection Agency has since followed with a report that local water now contains high levels of several heavy metals, including arsenic, that exceed acceptable drinking water standards.
The Tennessee Valley Authority has offered no explanation for the cause of the breach but has stated that it intends to abandon the waste storage system it had been using prior to the breach.
If you or someone you know has been affected by the Kingston Fossil Plant spill – whether your home has been damaged in some way or your health has been affected or you fear for your health – please contact our firm, Pogust Braslow & Millrood, for a free consultation. We want to know your story and will help you determine if you have a legal claim for economic damages or injury. You can contact us at (610) 941-4204 or through our website at http://www.pbmattorneys.com.