Lawyers add plaintiffs in ash spill lawsuit

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By The Staff



Seven lawsuits against TVA have been filed in the nearly four months since the rupture of an ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant that released 5.4 million cubic yards of the ash into the surrounding rivers and across land.

One lawsuit in particular has doubled in plaintiffs since it was filed on Feb. 18.

Robin Greenwald, an attorney with Weitz and Luxenberg, said the original 108 plaintiffs have grown to more than 200.

Representatives from the firm, along with environmental activist Erin Brockovich, greeted about 100 people at Roane State Community College on Wednesday night to address legal and environmental concerns of residents.

“I know there are those of you in the room that are thinking about what to do next,” Greenwald said.

This is the second time the group has been to Roane County, this time offering results from their own samples taken from the sludge and water, as well as the current condition of their lawsuit.

TVA will be officially be filing a motion today, Friday, for discretionary function immunity, which, if approved, would dismiss the court claims and grant TVA immunity from all lawsuits against them.

The plaintiffs are given two months to oppose the motion and then TVA will have the opportunity to reply before a judge decides the outcome, Greenwald said.

“When TVA is sued, almost always TVA has this motion,” she said.

“We believe we have a very strong opposition,” Greenwald added.

Brockovich said ruling on this motion will take some time.

“There’s not going to be a settlement tomorrow,” Brockovich said.

Health concerns were also addressed at the meeting.

Several audience members said they are being told by TVA that the water and air quality are fine.

However, Greenwald pointed out that if there was never a concern to begin with, residents would not have been moved out of the devastated area.

“If there is no health issue at all, they wouldn’t have relocated anyone,” she said.

Brockovich, who was made famous in a movie on her work, urged people to be proactive and to protect themselves from what may be in the air.

She cautioned that sometimes effects are felt years later.

“I’m prepared that in eight to 10 years, somebody is going to call about a three-headed fish in the river,” Brockovich said.

Samples taken from the sludge showed levels above the standard allowable for arsenic, Brockovich said.

The  samples were also tested for radionuclides, which can emit mutiple kinds of radiation as they decay. Some were found.

At higher levels, long-term exposure to radionuclides in drinking water may cause cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Brockovich said lead, barium, zinc and chromium where found in the air.

“In some instances, lead has been 30 times the limit,” Brockovich said.

Brockovich said the firm will continue to conduct its own testing and has recently set up more air monitoring stations to find out possible contamininats people are breathing.

IT will also conductgroundwater testing, including wells.