TVA Gets Permission to Further Pollute Clinch River

Earthjustice steps in to prevent continued devastation of river

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It’s not enough that Tennessee’s Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We’re talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting. Instead the agency got permission to pollute the river with coal waste from its coal-fired Kingston Fossil Plant.

Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club joined together to appeal this Clean Water Act permit, which pleases several local Tennessee residents, who have contended with the TVA’s dirty water practices for years.

"TVA in the course of their existence has so degraded, altered and polluted the Tennessee River that they’ve taken our greatest natural asset and turned it into our biggest health liability, " said Leaf Myczack, organic farmer formerly of the Tennessee RiverKeeper Project.

Longtime Tennessee resident Ann Harris remembers a time when she could see to the bottom of the Clinch River. She also swam and ate fish from its waters. Now, you can hardly see the top portion of the water, she says.

"Golly, it was a nice, clean river," Harris says. "My grandchildren won’t even swim in this river. The TVA, their history for the past 40 years is to destroy and keep the people of the valley ignorant of what they’re doing."

We’re hopeful this legal challenge will alert not just the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation to the dangers of not regulating coal ash waste, but the EPA, which has shown a commitment to begin regulating this toxic substance. The sooner the better.

Raviya was a press secretary at Earthjustice in the Washington, D.C. office from 2008 to 2014, working on issues including federal rulemakings, energy efficiency laws and coal ash pollution.