Environmental

ORAU to address health concerns of those affected by coal ash spill

Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a consortium of academic institutions, will begin addressing the health concerns of residents affected by last December’s coal ash spill at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Fossil Plant in Kingston, Tennessee, by late summer, according to a report by Knox News. The consortium was tapped to head up the response and handle the work. TVA will be monitoring the implementation of the guidelines and has agreed to pay medical expenses for anyone whose health problems are determined to be caused by the coal ash.

More than a billion gallons of coal ash spilled from an impoundment pond at the plant and poured on to a neighboring community, destroying homes and damaging property. Coal ash contains dangerous toxins that have been associated with serious health concerns such as cancer, liver disease and neurological disorders. Some residents already have tested positive for heavy metals in their bloodstream.

ORAU is developing protocols for testing and questionnaires about exposure and will notify the community about the program and which residents quality for screening. Local physicians and toxicologists from Vanderbilt Medical Center will meet with individuals at local clinics. Any trends discovered in the screening process will be submitted to the TVA.

Critics of the health plan argue that the TVA is still too much involved in the process, and that more should have been done sooner to ensure safety of residents affected by the spill. “TVA reserves all decision-making to itself about whether it will pay for any individual’s medical expenses,” says Sarah McCoin, who lives near the plant. “TVA can use the information obtained from the program it controls to downplay the legitimate health concerns of the community.”