In December 2008, TVA’s Kingston Power Plant coal ash dam collapsed, setting off one of the worst industrial accidents in U.S. history. The event caused toxic coal ash to inundate nearly 400 acres, destroying homes and saturating rivers with the thick, gray substance. The scale of the disaster required the work of hundreds of cleanup workers, and for months, crews worked nonstop in an attempt to clean up the wasteland.
In the beginning, the coal ash was thick and wet. Over time, the coal ash dried, forming a gray dust that overtook work sites in the affected areas. Workers were seen coated with dust, and a recent article detailed how the insides of cabbed cleanup machines were completely overtaken by gray matter. The dust infiltrated just about everything, including floorboards, dashboards, windows, the lunch trailer, portable toilets and workers’ cars. Many described it as having a chalky taste with a chemical smell, and workers described the ash dust at night, saying that the particles hung in the air and sparkled in moonlight.
Workers have informed that TVA, on numerous occasions, told them that the ash was safe. Initially after the spill, TVA issued multiple statements on the potential health hazards posed by the spill, but afterward, TVA’s inspector general criticized the release statements as containing “inaccurate and inconsistent information.” TVA public-relations employees, for example, were noted as taking a red pen to one “talking points” memo, deleting references to the ash’s “risk to public health and risk to the environment” and inserting descriptions of the coal ash as “mostly … inert.”
Gregory Button, a retired anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee who studied environmental disasters, says that “TVA was downplaying and denying … the disaster.” He interviewed dozens of residents, workers and officials about the spill, and remembers utility employees and contractors insisting the ash was harmless. Governmental testing further contradicted TVA’s information campaign. Arsenic was detected 149 times above safety standards after the spill. A team of researchers from Duke found high levels of arsenic and radium in the ash itself. These researchers warned that airborne dust could pose “a severe health impact on local communities and workers.”
Predictably, years after the spill, cleanup workers are starting to feel the health effects. The microscopic particles, which contain 17 different metals, arsenic up to 300 times higher than safety standards, and sharp edges that increase their toxicity to the lungs, are giving way to numerous cases of COPD and other chronic lung diseases (including lung cancer). It is estimated that 200 of the 900 workers were provided protective gear. Now, lawsuits are starting to mount against TVA for these cases as lung diseases begin to manifest.
Beasley Allen lawyers served in a leadership role in the TVA coal ash spill litigation that led to a $27.8 million settlement. If you have any questions about this subject, contact Rhon Jones, or Parker Miller at Rhon.Jones@beasleyallen.como or Parker.Miller@beasleyallen.com, or by phone at 800.898.2034.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.