KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Nearly 10 years after the Kingston coal ash spill, survivors say justice is yet to be served, with many questions still lingering as to why workers say they were told protection was not needed during the seven years it took to clean up the site.
“Why? Why? Why did they not give them protective wear for breathing?” said spouse of one ash spill worker and survivor, Julie Bledsoe.
Dressed in black as a sign of solidarity – in their words – to mourn the dead and fight for the living, dozens of survivors spoke out during the Tennessee Valley Authority’s quarterly listening session.
“Why? Why did they go through all the trouble to lie to these people?” asked Bledsoe. “We’re people of the Tennessee Valley. We live here. We didn’t do anything to deserve that.”
Bledsoe’s husband began working on the Kingston coal ash spill the very first day crews were there, saying it was back in 2008 at the start of the Great Recession when they were thankful just to have the work.
“The men were concerned, they said, ‘is this safe?’ And they said, ‘yes it’s safe, you can breathe it every day it won’t hurt you.’ One of the foremen from Jacob Engineering said you could eat a pound a day,” Bledsoe said.
While the company, Jacob’s Engineering, was in charge of cleanup at the site, family members of those still living say they were still under the authority of TVA and argue that TVA had to know it was not safe.
“We have not seen the type of illnesses that are being reported by these individuals within our own workforce, but that does not mean they are not valid,” said TVA spokesperson, Jim Hopson. “That’s one of the reasons why we feel it is important that these concerns are heard in that court of law where they can determine what the facts really are and then decide what’s the best path forward.”
“You know we should’ve been warned, he should’ve been warned. He went down there to earn a living he didn’t go down there to be sickened and come out with a disease there’s no cure for,” Bledsoe said.
Jane Clark’s husband was also at the site working on day one.
“They just dismissed them after they poisoned them in that ash,” Clark said.
Clark’s husband eventually ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure and a rare form of blood cancer.
“I would like to know why and I will ask that till the last day of my life… I want to know why they did this to these people,” said Clark.
It’s important to note, TVA is not a party in the ongoing litigation involving Jacob’s Engineering and workers from the Kingston cleanup site.