Landowners in Tennessee have filed a $165 million lawsuit against the Tennessee Valley Authority over the spill of millions of gallons of coal ash sludge from a TVA plant near Knoxville. The December 22 spill "created a tidal wave of water and ash which destroyed several homes and ruptured a major gas line in a neighborhood located adjacent to the plant," according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The $165M lawsuit was filed Tuesday by developers who claim that the coal ash sludge spill caused a number of home sales to fall through, according to CNN.com. Coal or "fly" ash sludge is waste byproduct produced from the combustion of coal in coal-fired power plants to generate electricity. According to the New York Times, the December 22 spill occurred when a "holding pond" containing decades' worth of coal ash sludge suddenly failed, flooding hundreds of acres of surrounding land in East Tennessee. A National Public Radio (NPR) report on the spill points out that "the disaster has raised lots of questions about whether regulations of coal ash are strict enough." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not classify coal ash as hazardous waste, so the ash is not regulated under any strict federal standard. States are free to regulate coal ash, but many do not, even though the waste may contain harmful metals like mercury and arsenic, according to NPR.