American Electric Power has been named as a defendant in a host of lawsuits claiming exposure to dangerous chemicals in coal waste.
Those injured claim they were exposed to dangerous chemicals in coal waste – fly ash, flue gas desulfurization material, bottom ash and boiler slag – which has caused numerous illnesses and several deaths.
The plaintiffs are divided into four categories – 39 working direct claim plaintiffs, 11 non-working direct claim plaintiffs, nine loss of spousal consortium plaintiffs and 18 loss of parental consortium plaintiffs. Of the 50 direct claim plaintiffs, six are deceased.
The complaints focus on AEP’s Gavin Landfill site in North Cheshire, Ohio, which is just across the Ohio River from Mason County. The Gavin Landfill – adjacent to AEP’s Gavin Power plant – is used primarily for collecting, shoveling, hauling, dumping, spreading and transporting the 2.6 million cubic yards of coal combustion waste byproducts produced at the plant each year.
“Coal waste contains a multitude of contaminants that are dangerous to human health, and individuals can be exposed through contact on skin, inhalation and ingestion,” the attorneys state. “These toxins have been shown to be directly related to incidences of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects, among others.”
The complaints alleged the plaintiffs were assured on numerous occasions that such coal waste was safe and non-hazardous, and that there should be no increased concern about health effects.
“Repeatedly, individuals were not provided with protective equipment, such as overalls, gloves or respirators when working in and around coal waste,” the attorneys state. “These working men and women, already exposed to the contaminants at the job site, then, in turn, carried the coal waste home to their families on their clothes and shoes, thus even exposing family members to the deadly toxins.”
In the complaint, the plaintiffs claim they asked Workman, a supervisor who lives in Mason County, about the dangers of working with the coal ash.
Workman responded “by sticking his finger into the coal waste and then placing his fly-ash covered finger into his own mouth, then misrepresented to the workers that coal waste was ‘safe enough to eat.”
Source: West Virginia Record, “AEP named in 77 exposure lawsuits,” Chris Dickerson, September 3, 2014.