Opposition to a proposed coal ash landfill is running strong in Anderson County, Tenn. The Bull Run power plant is scheduled to close by 2023, and the Tennessee Valley Authority plans to build a new landfill nearby to store coal ash in the community of Claxton, Tenn.
Local residents and elected officials, along with community and environmental groups, have been holding meetings to discuss the coal ash storage options and how to prepare for Bull Run’s coming closure, which could involve moving the coal ash. Currently, 5 million tons of coal ash is stored at the site near the Clinch River, and TVA stated in July 2019 that it does not plan to move the ash unless required to.
In February, a couple living near Bull Run sued the utility, alleging that pollution from the facility is responsible for health problems experienced by their children that include neurological, lung and heart issues.
Hundreds of workers claim they were sickened from working at the toxic waste site without protective gear, and nearly 50 have died as of February. In multiple lawsuits, more than 200 plaintiffs have sued the contractor, and 72 workers won an initial case in November 2018. Due to the plaintiffs’ urgent medical needs, the judge ordered that the parties come to a settlement. That mediation process was underway at press time in mid-February.
In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency closed comment periods for proposed changes to two rules intended to protect water and human health from the heavy metals and other wastes associated with burning coal for electricity. The EPA is modifying the 2015 federal coal ash rule by delaying closure timelines and weakening other provisions.
The publicly owned utility has acknowledged that waste is leaching from the Cumberland plant’s unlined coal ash ponds and plans to break ground on building a dry, lined landfill in 2021.