Man Questions TVA's Response To Pollution In His Well

Posted at 7:25 AM, Feb 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-03 08:32:00-05

Tennessee Valley Authority is defending how it stores coal ash at its Gallatin Steam Plant.

Environmental groups have sued TVA claiming it has violated the Federal Clean Water Act by polluting the Cumberland River.

Testimony in the lawsuit began in federal court began Monday and ended Thursday, but the judge did not rule from the bench.

Albert Hudson has lived beside the plant for most of his life. He has used a well in his backyard as his main source of water.

"Comes up right here, out of the ground," Hudson said as he pointed to his well.

But now Hudson and his family will only drink bottled water.

Tests last year from the state and from TVA revealed his well had levels of a cancer causing chemical, Hexavalent Chromium, which is found in coal ash.

"I'm bragging on my water, thinking I got the best water in the world, and it's polluted," Hudson said.

In October, TVA sent Hudson a letter stating the chemical was found in his well. (Click here to read the letter.) 

But TVA emphasized the amount was very small, and stated twice that his well water "meets Tennessee Water Quality Standards for safe drinking water."

Environmental Attorney Beth Alexander said TVA's letter left out some important information.

"To say that it meets that standard is I think deceptive," Alexander said. "What they didn't tell Mr. Hudson is that there is no Tennessee Water Quality Standard for Hexavalent Chromium. It doesn't exist.”

While there is no official standard, the EPA has released a risk assessment level. it is a proposed standard.

Hudson's well tested above that level.

"They conveniently omit that from the letter," Alexander said.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said the letter is accurate because regulators haven't set a standard.

"What the letter says specifically is that everything we tested for is within the limits set by the state and federal regulators," Brooks said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "Do you see that as deceptive?"

Brooks responded, "Not deceptive at all because we are stating the fact, which is under current standards his water meets acceptable levels."

Hudson said he didn't trust the letter which also stated levels of naturally occurring animal waste were dangerously high in his well, but the small level of chemicals were not.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "When you read that how did you feel?"

Hudson responded, "Like it was a joke. I really did."

Hudson continued, "They're just trying to cover their butt really, when they say it's small."

Hudson's well is part of a much larger debate about whether TVA's Gallatin plant is leaking chemicals into the surrounding groundwater.

"We don't have a definite answer as to where the Hexavalent Chromium is coming from," Brooks said.

Brooks said TVA has put monitoring wells all over its property and said the chemical could be coming from some other industry in the area.

TVA has constructed a huge landfill near the Gallatin plant where it will put coal ash in the future.

The new landfill has a white lining that creates a buffer between the ground and the ash.

But the old coal ash ponds have no lining.

Alexander said Hudson's well proves the old ash ponds are leaking dangerous pollution.

"If it's impacting Mr. Hudson's well, that means it's in the groundwater and if it's polluting the groundwater its in the Cumberland River," Alexander said.

The judge could force TVA to move the coal ash from the old ash ponds to a landfill with a lining, that is further away from the Cumberland River.

Albert Hudson is most focused on his family well.

"The fact is it's pollution. Do you want to drink pollution? That's what I'm asking," Hudson said.