Environmental Protection

Tenn. Family Files Suit against TVA

The Giltnane family of Kingston and Rockwood, Tenn., along with Ian and Sabrina Cullen, of Kingston, Tenn., announced Jan. 12 that they have filed a lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) seeking medical monitoring of their families and other families after potential exposure to 1.1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash released when the containment pond failed at the TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant (Kingston Steam Plant).

The Giltnanes are residents of the area near the Kingston Steam Plant, property owners, and owner/operators of a family business, Sailaway Homes and Land Realty, based in Kingston. The Cullens live on the Clinch River.

"Our primary concern is the health impact of this massive release of toxic materials into our community," said Levi Giltnane. "We have a two-year-old daughter, Skylar. For her and for the other children in this area, we want the TVA to give us honest answers about what is in this toxic ash."

"This disaster has negatively impacted the residential community and fouled the scenic waterways in the Kingston area, which are a central part of life in the area," stated Elizabeth Alexander, a Morristown, Tenn., native and partner in the Nashville office of the law firm Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP, which is representing the Giltnanes. "The TVA should be held to account for all of the harm it has caused through its bad decisions and obvious mismanagement of massive amounts of toxic materials." The Giltnanes ask that the court require:

• TVA to fund medical testing and monitoring for their family and other families exposed to the toxic coal ash, and any medical treatments and procedures determined necessary as a result of their exposure;

• TVA to fund environmental monitoring in residential communities and waterways affected by the release.

• TVA to provide monetary compensation for the Giltnanes and other families, for the costs of environmental remediation, damage to property, loss of property value, and loss of income by local businesses affected by the massive release.

The lawsuit alleges that the TVA had knowledge that its coal ash sludge containment pond was in danger of releasing massive amounts of toxic substances into the community, and failed to take reasonable steps that would have prevented the Dec. 22, 2008, environmental disaster.

The coal ash sludge pond reportedly contained over 20 years' worth of toxic ash produced by the TVA's coal burning facility. Just one year of the coal ash reportedly included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium, and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage, and neurological complications, among other health problems.

Environmental testing reportedly found arsenic levels in the water near the TVA facility to be 149 times higher than the federal limit for safe drinking water. The same testing registered lead levels five times higher than normal, as well as unsafe levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium, and chromium, and elevated levels of a dozen other chemicals.

The lawsuit alleges that the sludge pond failed on several prior occasions. The lawsuit further alleges that the TVA reportedly considered and rejected "global fixes" that might have prevented this massive release and instead the TVA chose to implement cheaper "band-aid" measures that failed to prevent the catastrophic failure and the release of more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash into the residential community.

The case, Robert Giltnane, et al, v. Tennessee Valley Authority, was filed in federal district court in Knoxville, Tenn., on Jan. 9.

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