- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
On Aug. 23, 2012, a federal judge found the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was negligent in failing to prevent a December 2008 coal ash spill at its Kingston power plant.
Coal ash is the product left over from burning coal to produce energy. It contains many chemical compounds and some heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic and mercury, are among the worst of them. The TVA managed the waste stream by storing the wet ash in an ash pond that was surrounded by a clay berm. The pond contained millions of gallons of waste ash. In 2008, the clay berm structure suffered a catastrophic failure and literally, tons of the ash suddenly flowed out into the surrounding community.
From the beginning, the TVA demonstrated either a lack of ability to properly manage and understand their own data or a poor attempt to cover up the facts. They originally said that 1.7 million cubic yards of wet coal ash had flowed from the failed retention walls. Less than a week later, an aerial survey demonstrated that the actual volume was more like 5.4 million cubic yards. That is the equivalent of spreading the material a foot deep over 3,000 acres. Properties in a large area were immediately contaminated and tests revealed that the nearby river now had elevated levels of lead and thallium. The cleanup of the area continues today and is not expected to be completed until sometime in 2015.
The TVA has continued to release messages to the public that they are committed to an unwavering desire to clean the spill and protect the public health and safety, restore the area and compensate people affected. However, within the same sentenced, they add catch phrases such as “where justified” and to “fairly compensate the people.” However, this is four years later and the cleaning action is not anticipated to be completed until another three years. The court’s decision is only phase 1 of the legal process. It appears the qualified comments in their statements are really just attempts to reduce compensation. The TVA claims it is trying to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. But what about the taxpayer who was deluged in ash?
This case should not have dragged on this long. Ever wonder how much in tax dollars are being paid to a team of lawyers? In this case, the judge also granted special judgments to the TVA and consolidated the 60 cases involving more than 800 plaintiffs. He also granted a bench trial, which means there was no jury involvement.
TVA said it has bought about 180 properties and settled more than 200 other claims. However, it appears that many people disagreed with the offers and it is suspected that many of the settlers just could not afford to carry on the battle. It can be financially devastating for the little guy to carry on legal battles against the legal teams big business and government can conjure up.
So, is it any wonder to anybody why the big businesses and governments are not liked? Is justice really just a reflection of what money can buy? Sadly, we all know the answer.