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Defending Uniontown, AL from Toxic Coal Ash

Client Esther Calhoun holds a button from the local community group fighting coal ash pollution in Uniontown, AL.

Client Esther Calhoun holds a button from the local community group fighting coal ash pollution in Uniontown, AL.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Case Overview

On Dec. 22, 2008, just after midnight, a massive coal ash dump in Kingston, Tenn., burst through a dike, sending more than a billion gallons of toxic waste across 300 acres of riverfront property, damaging and destroying two dozen nearby homes. The owner of the dump, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has since spent $1.2 billion in cleanup costs, but by 2010, only a small percentage of the ash had been cleaned up and Tennessee residents were losing patience.

With the approval of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, the TVA chose to move the 4 million cubic yards of poisonous ash 350 miles south and dump it at the Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County, Alabama, a county that according to the 2010 census is 68 percent African-American and one of the poorest in that state. The community of Uniontown near the Arrowhead Landfill is 88 percent African-American.

In December of 2013, Earthjustice attorneys informed the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights that Earthjustice would be representing six Alabama residents in a civil rights complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits recipients of federal funds, including state agencies, from taking actions or implementing policies that have unjustified disproportionate adverse effect on the basis of race. The complaint is against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for reissuing and modifying the landfill’s permit without proper and readily enforceable protections of public health.

Case ID

2596

Case Updates

September 1, 2014 | Feature

Ashes: A Community's Toxic Inheritance

An Alabama community inherited the worst coal ash spill in U.S. history—four million cubic yards of toxic ash. This is the story of how residents of Uniontown are fighting back.

August 19, 2014 | Blog Post

Uniontown Prepares to Demand Justice

Residents of Uniontown, Alabama prepare for EPA visit to investigate the complaint filed by many of its citizens under the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

March 6, 2014 | Feature

A Toxic Inheritance

The nation’s worst coal ash spill was scooped up from a prosperous community and dumped across state lines into the lives of a low-income community. But Alabama's Perry County is fighting back.

December 23, 2013 | Blog Post

Five Years Later and the Story of the TVA Spill Continues

On December 22, 2008, just after midnight, the town of Harriman, Tennessee woke to the flood of more than one billion gallons of toxic coal ash sludge that burst through an earthen dam on the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston Fossil Plant.

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