The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221

Advocates Challenge Water Pollution From TVA's Kingston Plant

Move aimed at protecting Clinch River, already polluted by one billion gallons of coal ash


Ann Harris, 70, remembers growing up near the Clinch River in
Tennessee, frequently swimming and fishing its waters with her family.
For the past few decades, the river has changed drastically. Its once
clear waters now look and smell like sewage, which led Harris to sell
her ancestral home and move away eight years ago.

Now, the Clinch River could be the dumping ground for even more
toxic pollution. The Tennessee Valley Authority was granted permission
to discharge mercury, selenium, and other chemicals from its Kingston
Fossil Plant into the Clinch River -- the same river that was
devastated on December 22, 2008 when a dam broke, spilling one billion
gallons of coal ash into its waters.

Earthjustice, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Sierra Club joined together to appeal this Clean Water Act permit
that was granted by the Tennessee Department of Environment &
Conservation (TDEC) on October 16. The appeal filed today before the
Tennessee Water Quality Control Board challenges TDEC's failure to
limit the discharge of toxic pollutants from the Kingston plant.

"The TVA is the polluter now, instead of the conserver of the
river," said Harris. "This river is the lifeblood of a few million
people. TVA needs to go look at how they've damaged the river; they're
destroying it to the point that it's almost useless."

While TVA finally installed a "scrubber" system to reduce emissions
of air pollutants, the plant now plans to generate an entirely new
waste stream and discharge one million gallons of polluted wastewater
into the Clinch River daily.

"This river has been through enough," said Megan Klein, Earthjustice
attorney. "It is time for TVA to start taking its responsibilities to
protect the public seriously and to install pollution controls for
water as well as air."

Water quality in the Clinch River is already impaired, and the river
cannot withstand additional pollution. Since 2002, the Clinch River has
been identified by the EPA as having unacceptably high levels of
mercury, chlorane and other toxins. The river's condition is even worse
after the coal ash disaster last year. Nevertheless, TDEC is not
requiring TVA to limit the amount of mercury, selenium or other metals
that will be discharged from its new scrubber system.

Under the Clean Water Act TVA should be required to help restore
water quality and at a minimum to install the best available treatment
technology for its wastewater. Instead, TVA is dumping essentially
untreated wastewater into the Clinch River.

Unfortunately, TVA is not the only utility to sacrifice water
quality in a bid to clean up air emissions. Coal-fired power plants
around the country are installing scrubbers without proper controls to
limit water pollution because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
has failed to set national standards governing wastewater discharges
from scrubber systems. This means that water pollution nationwide is
increasing as a result of air emissions reductions. As the EPA recently
acknowledged in a report on wastewater from coal-fired power plants:

"There are a number of pollutants present in wastewaters generated
at coal-fired power plants that can impact the environment, including
metals (e.g., arsenic selenium, mercury), TDS and nutrients," the report
states. "The primary routes by which coal combustion wastewater impacts
the environment are through discharges to surface waters, leaching to
ground water, and by surface impoundments and constructed wetlands
acting as attractive nuisances that increase wildlife exposure to the
pollutants contained in the systems. EPA found the interaction of coal
combustion wastewaters with the environment has caused a wide range of
environmental effects to aquatic life."

"We know that coal waste is becoming increasingly toxic," said
Lyndsay Moseley, a Tennessee native and Beyond Coal Campaign
Representative with the Sierra Club. "We need strong regulations to
protect communities -- to keep toxic coal waste out of our waters, and
ensure it is disposed of properly."

"The Clean Water Act requires TDEC to eliminate toxic discharges
from the Kingston plant," said Lisa Widawsky, EIP attorney. "Instead,
incredibly, TDEC is authorizing new discharges of toxic heavy metals --
to the tune of one million gallons a day -- into the same river
devastated by the Kingston coal ash spill. More than a third of all
power plants have eliminated toxic discharges by installing zero
discharge systems, and TDEC must require the same at Kingston."

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.