A federal judge ruled last week that the Tennessee Valley Authority is officially responsible for the 2008 spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash sludge onto Watts Bar Lake, Tennessee.
The spill covered 300 acres of land in the toxic sludge, ruining the town and launching several lawsuits against TVA. Cleanup is expected to cost $1 billion total, and has led to several questions regarding the safety of coal sludge disposal.
The TVA has unique status as a “federal corporation” – while it was founded as a government authority in the 1930’s, the organization has since become a privatized business, financed by selling the power it generates, rather than federal money. This meant that the TVA had limited liability in the event of a disaster such as the one that occurred in December 2008. Initially, US District Judge Thomas A. Varlan rejected the victims’ request for punitive damages, but his current ruling, which holds TVA responsible for poor maintenance which led to the spill, opens up avenues for courts to reassess personal damages.
In his 130-page ruling, Varlan stated, “Had TVA followed its own mandatory policies, procedures, and practices, the subsurface issues underlying the failure of North Dike would have been investigated, addressed, and potentially remedied before the catastrophic failure.”
While TVA has not yet said if it will appeal Varlan’s ruling, the utility did release a statement saying “TVA has taken responsibility for what happened and is committed to restoring the Kingston area. We are following through on our pledge to clean up the ash while protecting public health and safety.”
The TVA has also already purchased 180 properties affected by the spill, settled 200 claims from residents, and paid $43 million to the Roane County Economic Development Foundation so they could help affected communities.
Varlan has ordered both plaintiffs and defendants to file documents in the next three weeks to determine how the case will proceed, and create a picture of how the victims will be compensated.
While compensation for personal injury is no substitute for preventative measures, it is important to take steps that hold companies responsible for their actions. Cases against companies bring safety issues to light, and can also help the plaintiff receive compensation for medical bills and lost wages. The lawyers at the Strom Law Firm specialize in personal injury law, and can help you get on the right path to recovery. We offer free consultations, so do not hesitate to contact us for a case evaluation. 803.252.4800.