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Federal judge finds TVA liable in ash spill | Environment

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Federal judge finds TVA liable in ash spill
Environment, News
Federal judge finds TVA liable in ash spill

A federal judge has declared TVA is to blame for the massive 2008 coal ash spill in Roane County and can be held legally liable for property damages. 

The ruling from U.S. District Judge Thomas Varlan comes almost a year after hearing testimony from residents who were suing TVA in September and October of 2011.

The December 2008 spill occurred when an earthen dam at the Kingston Fossil Plant collapsed and unleashed 5.4 million cubic yards of ash onto nearby property and into the Emory River.

Judge Varlan issued his written opinion that said TVA is liable for the ultimate failure of the dike because of "negligent non-discretionary conduct."

However, that does not mean an easy win for the plaintiffs.  The judge has ordered that in Phase II of the lawsuit, each plaintiff must prove how TVA's negligence damaged their property on an individual basis.

While there are hundreds of plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit, many people have dropped out of the legal fight during the long legal process.  Almost all of the property owners in the direct path of the spill are not part of the lawsuit because they have already sold their property to TVA.

"TVA has purchased more than 180 properties and settled more than 200 claims submitted by area residents," said Joe Hoagland, TVA Senior Vice President of policy and oversight.

The Roane County Property Assessor's office told 10News 179 parcels of property have been purchased by TVA.

When TVA bought those parcels, it also bought protection from lawsuits.  Those who sold to TVA also signed settlements that prevent them from suing for damages.

"The ones we have settled with are no longer in any of the lawsuits," said Hoagland.

Some of the final holdouts grew weary of the long legal process and settled for closure.  Visible signs of the former residents are also gone.  For example, today almost every home along Lakeshore Drive has been purchased and razed.  Only empty driveways remain along the lakefront properties.

TVA continues cleaning the site and expects the entire project to be complete by the end of 2015 at a cost of $1.2 billion.

Environment, News

Kingston - Harriman - Roane Businesses