KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The families of workers involved with the 2008 Kingston Coal Ash Spill are making their way to Nashville Tuesday night.
Several lawsuits have been filed by the families of those who worked to clean up more than 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash. The next phase of the Tennessee Supreme Court case between the cleanup contractor, Jacobs Engineering, and the workers’ families begins at 11:15 a.m. central on Wednesday.
A vigil was held Tuesday night in Downtown Knoxville to honor the more than 900 workers who spent six years cleaning up one of the largest industrial spills in U.S. History.
Fran Ansley is a retired law professor from UT and a long-time Knoxville resident. She’s also a member of the group Jobs With Justice East Tennessee.
“I remember back to 2008 when this very shocking coal ash spill happened,” said Ansley.
She’s been fighting for those who worked for the cleanup contractor of the Kingston Coal Ash Spill, Jacobs Engineering. Families of those workers claim they suffered damage to their health by being denied personal protection equipment like dust masks.
“TVA and Jacobs should have protected their health and they didn’t and because they didn’t these workers have serious health problems and many of them, over 50 of them have died as a result of their exposure to coal ash,” said June Rostan is the Vice President of the Knoxville- Oak Ridge Central Labor Council.
Lawsuits have been filed against the Tennessee Valley Authority and Jacobs Engineering since 2013.
“Here we go, year after year, after year, still hoping that these individual workers have a chance to get before a jury so that our law that’s supposed to try to do its best to make people whole, you cannot be made whole from these kinds of injuries, but at least you can be made whole in some ways,” said Ansley.
Wednesday’s hearing will begin to define whether Jacobs Engineering can apply the Tennessee Silica Claims Priorities Act to the case.
“These are not people complaining of silica injuries, these are people complaining of coal ash injuries, and coal ash has a little silica in it, well maybe more than a little silica in it sometimes, but it also has heavy meddles it has dangerous radioactive particles and it can cause a wrath of injuries that are completely different from the injuries that silica can cause. So, we certainly hope that Jacob’s latest attempts will be rejected or very strongly limited by the supreme court,” Ansley explained.
If Jacobs Engineering is allowed to apply the Tennessee Silica Claims Priorities Act, it could make it harder for workers and their families to receive compensation.
The case is set to begin at 11:15 a.m. central and will be live-streamed on YouTube. You can watch it here.
Jacobs Engineering does have information on the cleanup and these court cases on their website. You can find that information here.