Bruce Duncan’s family lives just three miles from where more than a billion gallons of toxic coal ash spilled from an impoundment pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal-firing plant. They watch trucks loaded with recovered coal ash pass by their house every day en route to other landfills specially equipped to store the toxic waste. The Duncans would like to move away to a safer environment, like many in the area have. Living so close to the cleanup has made them ill. They have frequent nosebleeds, frontal headaches, increased shortness of breath, wheezing, asthma exacerbation and increased chest pain. Their doctor also warned them not to drink the water. But unlike some residents in the area, the TVA hasn’t offered to help the Duncans, and they simply cannot afford to buy another home, especially when their current home has lost value since the spill.
The Duncans – husband, wife, a disabled adult son, and an 8-year-old son – decided to stop suffering in silence. They are among hundreds of people who have filed lawsuits against the TVA claiming gross negligence. The Duncans are seeking $1 million in compensatory damages for personal injuries and losses in addition to unspecified punitive damages to punish TVA as a deterrent, according to the Associated Press.
The TVA is engaged in a years-long, billion-dollar cleanup of the coal ash-covered land. The utility has also given $43 million to the community to help improve city infrastructures and the community’s image, and has agreed to pay settlements to owners of 150 pieces of property. Thirty-three settlement offers were not accepted, and TVA now faces dozens of lawsuits from victims.