TVA Agrees to Move Coal Ash. Why Can't Alabama Power Do The Same?

TVA Agrees to Move Coal Ash. Why Can't Alabama Power Do The Same? 

TVA's 476-acre coal ash pond at its Gallatin Plant. The nearby river and residences are highlighted in red. Photo courtesy of Southern Environmental Law Center. 

TVA's 476-acre coal ash pond at its Gallatin Plant. The nearby river and residences are highlighted in red. Photo courtesy of Southern Environmental Law Center

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to dig up the millions of tons of coal ash pollution that has been piling up on the banks of the Cumberland River and move it to a more appropriate and safe location. A court case ruling in August determined the coal ash pollution stored at their plant has been allowing pollutants to seep into the river for decades and violate the Clean Water Act (CWA).

U.S. District Judge Waverly Crenshaw said,

"While the decision to build the Ash Pond Complex is in the past, the consequences of that decision continue today, and it now falls on the Court to address them...The way to do so is not to cover over those decades-old mistakes, but to pull them up by their roots. TVA, as the entity responsible for the ponds, must be the entity to do so."

This case was a victory for clean water in Tennessee and for the surrounding communities who rely on this water. It also sets a precedent for other power plants with coal ash ponds across the Southeast. The message is clear -- we need utilities to clean up the coal ash pollution piled up along our rivers and store it in appropriate, safe locations.

So, what’s happening in Coastal Alabama?

Alabama Power's Plant Barry stores more than 16 million tons ox toxic coal ash next to the Mobile River in the heart of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Flight provided by Southwings.

So far, Alabama Power has chosen to leave toxic coal ash pollution at Plant Barry alongside the Mobile River in our beloved Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Alabama Power is well respected within the community and we constantly see their employees going above and beyond, most recently in the wake of Hurricane Nate. We need this same level of effort and diligence from upper management when it comes to coal ash.

The coal ash pond at Plant Barry is 600 acres, considerably larger than the 476 acres of coal ash ponds at TVA’s Gallatin Plant. This massive amount of coal ash contains toxic chemicals like mercury, selenium, chromium, and lead. It is held back by a levee made of clay and dirt, making it susceptible to collapse from the effects of a strong Hurricane or heavy rain. The pond is also unlined (meaning there is no barrier between the ground), very likely allowing the toxins to contaminate the groundwater and seep into the Mobile River.

A significant contrast can be seen between water discharging from the coal ash pond and the water in the Mobile River. Flight provided by Southwings

The coal ash stored by Alabama Power at Plant Barry threatens nearby communities, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, our economy, and our way of life - swimming, fishing, hunting, and boating on these waters. Just like the communities affected by the TVA coal ash pond, citizens of Alabama deserve clean water. 

We need YOU to tell Alabama Power to dig up the coal ash and move it to an appropriate, lined location away from the river. Select "Start Writing" below to send a pre-drafted letter to Alabama Power, or write your own instead. Click here to learn more about coal ash in Coastal Alabama. 

For more information, contact Program Director Cade Kistler at ckistler@mobilebaykeeper.org or call 251-433-4229. 


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