Does TVA’s Gallatin facility have coal ash problems? Let’s talk about it!

By Cathie Bird

On March 25th 2015, Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM),Sierra Club Tennessee Chapter, Climate Nashville, Ecogal – The Curious Consumer,Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Working Films will host a free, open community discussion on the continuing impact of Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal ash landfill at the Gallatin Fossil Plant, the recent lawsuit filed by the state against TVA, and what it means for the future of the Gallatin community.

What’s up with Gallatin?

TVA’s Gallatin Fossil Plant sits on the north bank of the Cumberland River, about 30 miles northeast of Nashville. Its four coal-fired generating units burn about 12,350 tons of coal a day. The main residue from that process – 230,000 dry tons of coal ash per year – is stored in a coal ash pond complex north of the plant.

Because coal ash contains many toxic elements and compounds, rules for coal-fired power plants require permits to operate, and must be monitored for water pollution.

Last year, activists mobilized to ask for tougher standards on TVA’s plan for a new 54-acre coal ash landfill at Gallatin. Though the new landfill would use a safer dry storage method, many citizens had concerns about active leaks of toxic coal ash constituents from old ponds that exceeded allowable levels. These exceedances were the basis of an intent to sue TVA by several environmental groups filed in November of 2014, and are cited by TDEC in its suit filed in January of 2015.

This screenshot from the Gallatin facility’s data page at Ashtracker shows four test wells (red markers) where levels of nine different toxic coal ash constituents have exceeded amounts allowed by the rules. Well 19R, for example, had 76 exceedances in data collected on the Gallatin plant by the Environmental Integrity Project.

 

This is important because communities near the Gallatin plant use treated water that comes directly from the Cumberland River. The water utility serving the town of Gallatin, Tennessee is a little more than a mile downstream of the ash ponds.

Coal ash ponds also pose risks to surrounding communities if a dam should fail. The EPA has ranked ponds at the Gallatin facility as a significant hazard, meaning that failure is “likely to cause significant economic loss, environmental damage, or damage to infrastructure”.

The free Coal Ash Stories – Gallatin, TN event will feature four short films that talk about public health concerns, policies, and community responses to this environmental injustice. Come learn about the issues, talk with issue experts and others in your community, and find out how you can get involved.

Here’s the event info:

March 25th 2015, 6:30pm CST

Palace Theater, 146 N Water Ave, Gallatin, TN 37066

Hosted by: Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), The Tennessee Sierra Club, Climate Nashville, Ecogal – The Curious Consumer, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Working Films.

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