Press Release

Wife of Kingston coal ash cleanup worker to be featured in event

Facebook Live event will highlight the dangers of coal ash and support Kingston workers

CONTACT:

Dan Radmacher, (540) 798-6683, dan@appvoices.org
Susan Thomas, (847) 767-1870, Susan@jtnwi.org

Appalachian Voices and Just Transition Northwest Indiana will be co-hosting a virtual event on May 26 spotlighting the dangers of coal ash to our communities through testimony by the wife of a cleanup worker of the 2008 Kingston, Tennessee, coal ash disaster, the worst ever in U.S. history. Please see below for additional context on the story and its relation to current issues impacting our communities. 

The event is open to the public, and the media is invited to attend over Facebook. We will be sharing a recording afterward for those unable to participate in the live event. Interviews are available upon request. 

Who: Just Transition NWI, Appalachian Voices, and the wife of an impacted Kingston cleanup worker 
What: #RememberKingston Facebook Live & Community Discussion
Where: Facebook Live
When: Thursday, May 26 @ 11 a.m. CT 

History: In 2008, a dike ruptured at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston Fossil Plant in East Tennessee, releasing more than 1 billion gallons of toxic coal ash into nearby rivers and land, marking the biggest industrial spill in U.S. history. Hundreds of cleanup workers fell ill from lung diseases, cancers, and other ailments after being deprived of proper protective gear and are currently fighting for their lives. More than 50 workers have since died. Now, these workers’ decades-long pursuit for justice hits a turning point as the Tennessee Supreme Court hears a case that could be a linchpin for them and future worker safety cases, scheduled for Wednesday, June 1. 

Background on the Tennessee Supreme Court Case: Jacobs Engineering, the contractor that employed the workers, has asked the Tennessee Supreme Court to compare apples to oranges: requesting that coal ash be classified as silica and mixed dust, and for the workers to prove specific injuries under the Tennessee Silica Claims Priorities Act that do not reflect injuries that result from coal ash exposure. If the court rules in favor of Jacobs, it will set a harmful precedent for future coal ash injury cases. Many Kingston workers and their families could receive no compensation for their losses and years of medical bills they have endured.

Why it Matters for Northwest Indiana and the Lake Michigan Region: In Northwest Indiana, the utility, NIPSCO, began excavation at the Michigan City Generating Station in April 2022 to remove a mere 10% of the on-site coal ash. Following the tireless advocacy of Just Transition NWI and the community for more than two years, we still do not know what worker protection measures are in place. Even worse, 2 million tons of the toxic coal ash are slated to remain on the shores of Lake Michigan, where groundwater contaminated with coal ash is already flowing into the lake and Trail Creek. A catastrophic coal ash spill is imminent unless completely removed, impacting drinking water for 10 million people. 

“I imagine workers all over the country, so thrilled to have a job, having no idea how toxic coal ash is, not knowing they are being harmed,” said Julie Bledsoe, whose husband worked to clean up the Kington coal ash spill and was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Tennesseans have the responsibility to make sure it never happens to other communities and workers.”  

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About Just Transition NWI: Just Transition Northwest Indiana (JTNWI) is a grassroots environmental justice organization serving Northwest Indiana, whose mission is to educate and organize NWI communities and workers, give voice to their stories, and support a just transition to a regenerative economy that protects the environment, climate, and future generations: www.jtnwi.org.

Appalachian Voices is a leading nonprofit advocate for a healthy environment and just economy in the Appalachian region, and a driving force in America’s shift from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

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