Tuesday night, the Roane County Commission approved allocating money to hire an outside lawyer to sue TVA and/or Jacobs Engineering over the 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston.
The spill was one of the largest environmental disasters in state and U.S. history. Roane County leaders say they believe the economic impact, property value damage, and health issues related to the spill and the ensuing cleanup, as well as continuing news coverage on lawsuits filed by recovery worker creates a long-reaching negative impact that they claim will hold the county for decades to come.
The ash spill happened on December 22, 2008 after a dike at a retention containing over 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant broke and spilled into Watts Bar Lake and the surrounding Swan Pond community. Jacobs Engineering was later hired to clean up the site.
Officials said the county, in order to ensure that all of the evidence in the case is preserved, needs to file suit before the ten-year anniversary of the spill. Officials want to determine if they were misled by TVA about the safety of its coal ash storage system in Kingston in the first place, and if they were misled by the cleanup company about health risks and effects of the toxins in the spill on members of the cleanup team, many of whom have filed suit against Jacobs Engineering alleging that the company falsified medical records in an attempt to cover up the fact that dozens of workers have gotten sick, and in many cases died after working on the massive remediation project.
The resolution passed last night doubles the county’s budget for legal representation by adding $100,000 to that fund.
Tuesday’s vote came after commissioners met with the county’s attorney in an executive session that lasted nearly an hour. Knoxville attorney James Scott, who’s leading the lawsuit against Jacobs Engineering for the former clean-up workers, also took part in the executive session.
County executive Ron Woody will select the county’s attorney in this matter and indicated after the meeting that a lawyer from Scott’s office will likely be the choice.