NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) - A coalition of environmental activist groups filed an appeal Monday of a pollution permit issued for the Tennessee Valley Authority's Gallatin coal-fired power plant.
The action, filed with the Tennessee Water Quality Control Board, claims the wastewater discharge permit from the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation does not limit toxic discharges into the water.
The petitioners are the Sierra Club, the Tennessee Clean Water Network and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. The complaint notes that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has criticized the TDEC in the past. It also states, "As EPA has recognized, effluent associated with coal ash has high concentrations of dangerous constituents, including aluminum, arsenic, barium, boron, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, and selenium."
The group's legal representative is Earthjustice, which issued a communique containing statements excoriating both the TVA and the TDEC.
"TVA is doing nothing to reduce pollution and nothing to stop daily fish kills, and TDEC giving that do-nothing program its stamp of approval," said Earthjustice attorney Abigail Dillen. "If TVA wants to keep operating this old plant into the 21st century, it needs to invest in 21st pollution controls."
"TVA has been polluting water in Tennessee for too long." said Renee Victoria Hoyos, TCWN's executive director. "We need limits on the amount of heavy metals and other pollutants that this old coal plant can dump into the Cumberland River every day. TDEC can set these limits if they want to and we are asking that they do."
Axel C. Ringe, Vice Conservation Chair of SC's Tennessee Chapter, said, "Even TVA has promised that it is going to stop using these dangerous impoundments for their ash and wastewater, but TDEC has given them a permit that lets them go on with business as usual for another five years,"
TVA's Scott Brooks responded to the vitriol, saying, "As TVA renews or obtains new water discharge permits at its power generating facilities, it continues to meet newer and more stringent standards that protect water quality in the Tennessee River Valley. TVA meets all of its water permits designed by the state to protect the safety and health of the public."
Brooks mentioned that TVA has been operating its Gallatin Fossil Plant for more than five decades under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. Ongoing monitoring done in conjunction with these permits has demonstrated that water quality at the Cumberland River has continuously met drinking water standards.
"TVA power generating facility water discharge permits impose limitations that protect humans, livestock, wildlife, plant life, or fish and aquatic life in the receiving stream or reservoir," Brooks said. "TVA conducts extensive long-term monitoring on the health of ecosystems, aquatic life and water quality."
According to the TVA, the company continuously monitors water quality from power plants. The monitoring tests permitted water discharges in categories such as water temperature, water clarity, pH balance, suspended solids and inorganic substances. The monitoring is performed on daily, weekly, monthly and yearly schedules and according to the various category requirements, to assure permit limit compliance.
"Compliance with water permits, and all other environmental stewardship regulations, is a top priority for TVA. TVA employees live throughout the Tennessee River Valley ,using the same clean water as their neighbors for drinking, household use and recreation," Mr. Brooks said.
But Josh Galperin, a SACE representative, was very critical of the TDEC and TVA.
"Gallatin has polluted Tennessee's water since the 1950s. In all that time, TDEC has never seen fit to require modern pollution controls," he said.
"While the best way for TVA to stop this pollution is to retire the Gallatin plant and move away from burning dirty coal, they are unfortunately poised to spend nearly $1 billion to extend Gallatin's life and actually increase the water pollution in this process. TDEC must act expeditiously to enforce strict pollution limits on the toxics this old coal plant dumps into the Cumberland River every day."
TDEC, responded to the environmentalists' allegation with a written statement stating, "It is the department's assessment that this permit is fully protective of water quality and consistent with the legal requirements of the Clean Water Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act. The permit rationale provides our careful calculations, which demonstrate that permit limits are not warranted based on the characteristics of the wastewater and the receiving stream. Additionally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed the permit and had no objections to its content as issued. It's important to also note that the Gallatin plant's permit is consistent with other fossil plant permits."