Nearly 200 clean-up workers sickened or dead from 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill
Warren Duzak and Zackary Thorton
13 September 2018
Almost a decade after the worst coal ash spill in US history, clean-up workers are dying from exposure to arsenic and radium.
The spill took place in December 2008 at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Kingston Fossil Fuel Power Plant, in the Swan Pond community of Roane County, Tennessee, near the city of Knoxville. The disaster smothered 300 acres of land and over two-dozen homes in 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash, releasing 140,000 pounds of arsenic into the nearby Emory River—more than twice the reported amount of arsenic discharged into US waterways from all US coal plants in 2007.
A recent USA Today Network-Tennessee investigation into the cleanup, testing, and treatment of workers revealed what can only be described as a horrendous social crime against the working class. Last year, more than 50 workers and workers’ survivors filed a lawsuit against Jacobs Engineering, the company hired by the TVA to oversee the cleanup, citing the company’s failure to provide workers with the necessary protective clothing, as well as failing to reveal the toxic nature of the coal ash.
By March of this year, there were over 180 new cases of dead and dying workers. At least 30 workers have died, and at least 200 are estimated to be sick with lung diseases, cancers, and skin conditions.
Testing by the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation before the TVA took over cleanup found levels of arsenic 36 times higher than in the surrounding soil. During the recovery work, workers were putting in more than 70 hours a week for months, or even years, while exposed to “dust devils of fly ash” without protection.
In an initial…