December marks the five year anniversary of the Kingston coal ash spill,
one of the most significant environmental disasters in U.S. history. The
accident released over one billion gallons of ash sludge into the Emory
river and throughout neighboring properties. Its effects included damage
to property as well as, impacts to the health of nearby residents.
Many communities in the southeast are susceptible to contamination resulting
from coal ash.
Many communities throughout the southeast, including many in the state
of Georgia, are susceptible to the detrimental effects of
coal ash. One such community is located in Juliette, Georgia. It is home to one
of the country’s largest coal fire power plants—the Scherer
Power Station. Many residents believe that their water wells are contaminated
with high levels of uranium and other toxic heavy metals coming from the
Plant’s unlined coal ash dumps. A survey conducted by the University
of Georgia found that there were unsafe uranium levels in the drinking
water of over 20 homes located near the Plant. When uranium breaks down,
it forms radon. Exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer
among nonsmoking Americans. In addition to uranium poisoning and cancer,
the toxins have lead to kidney disease, dementia, and respiratory illness.
Lawsuits seek to compensate residents for injuries resulting from coal
ash contamination caused by improper disposal and monitoring.
In September of this year, two
lawsuits were filed on behalf of 123 current and former residents of the area surrounding
the Plant. The lawsuit which was filed against the Plant’s owners,
including Georgia Power, claims that the Plant knowingly released toxic
contaminants that were detrimental to their health and well being of nearby
residents. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for claims including
negligence, nuisance, and fraud.
Industry representatives deny that coal ash presents a danger to the health
of nearby residents.
Industry representatives argue that coal ash is safe. In addition, a report
issued by the Georgia Department of Public Health this summer found that
the levels of uranium in the area are naturally occurring. This has resulted
in minimal regulation regarding the disposal of coal ash. For example,
while Georgia is one of the leading states in coal ash production, it
also has some of the weakest regulations pertaining to coal ash disposal.
In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency has delayed issuing new
regulations in this area. For this reason, the outcome of this case could
be have significant impacts on other lawsuits alleging personal injury
resulting from coal ash, as well as, government regulations and industry
standards related to coal ash disposal.
If you believe that environmental contamination has caused damage to your
health or property, you should contact an attorney immediately.