Workers allegedly refused safety gear, told coal ash was non-toxic

A lawsuit has been filed against an US power company that allegedly told workers coal ash was ‘safe enough to eat’.

The suit alleges that American Electric Power‘s Gavin Landfill site in Ohio exposed more than 77 people to toxic chemicals in coal ash, leading to deaths and illnesses.

According to The West Virginia RecordThe Gavin Landfill is used for collecting, dumping and transporting the 2.6 million cubic yards of coal combustion waste byproducts produced by the company every year.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the company told workers the waste was safe and non-hazardous, meaning they were not required to wear protective clothing.

Plaintiffs claim they asked a supervisor about the dangers of working with the coal waste and he responded by “sticking his finger into the coal waste and then placing his fly-ash covered finger into his own mouth,” thereby implying that “that coal waste was ‘safe enough to eat'.

Workers say they were told the coal waste was only a mixture of “water and lime,” and that it contained “such low levels of arsenic, it made no difference” to their health or safety.

Lawyers for the plaintiff’s said the coal waste contains several toxic elements which are dangerous to human health and can be transferred by skin contact, inhalation and ingestion.

“These toxins have been shown to be directly related to incidences of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease, chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects, among others,” lawyers said. 

The plaintiffs are divided into four categories including people who directly worked at the site and those who lost spouses and parents.

“It’s not just the workers we are representing,” Dave Duffield, the managing partner at Duffield, Lovejoy, Stemple & Boggs, said.

“We are also representing the sons and daughters, the families of these individuals, who are now starting to deal with the consequences of this toxic contact themselves due to exposure in their own home by the dangerous waste being brought home on their relatives’ work clothes.”

“People are dying, and more will die. Six of the 50 plaintiffs have died before we filed the lawsuit. Since the filing of the suit, two more have died in the last month. More will die. Many have skin lesions and numerous forms of cancer; others are ‘living’ knowing they are going to die and attending each other’s funerals as they watch their friends and coworkers be put to rest.”

Duffield said more cases could be filed.

Image: wikipedia.org

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.