Memorial held honoring workers, families in 2008 Kingston coal ash spill


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Lives lost more than a decade ago were honored on Monday along an East Tennessee sidewalk. The memorial focused on the workers in the massive Roane County coal ash spill.

MORE: EPA Response to Kingston TVA Coal Ash Spill

We’ve been covering the spill since it happened in December 2008. Coal ash from the Kingston Fossil Plant gushed into the Emory river and onto surrounding homes and properties.

The entire cleanup took more than six years to complete, from 2009 to 2015.

MORE: Tennessee Congressmen seek explanation from TVA in letter

A lawsuit was filed by workers of the cleanup under Jacobs Engineering claims workers were not protected. TVA is not a party in the ongoing litigation involving Jacob’s Engineering and workers from the Kingston cleanup site.

RELATED: TVA backlash grows as coal ash spill workers grow sick

Nearly 11 years to the date, a memorial was organized on Monday to honor those workers who cleaned up coal ash. Organizers said the families of the workers were not at the memorial, but they’re likely hurting during another Christmas.

On the corner of Keller Bend Road and S Northshore Drive, traffic was coming to a stop.

“I think there are a lot of people who don’t even realize what happened and I’m hoping all these signs and the candles help them bring it to their attention that this has happened,” said Elizabeth Armstrong.

Organizers of the memorial say it was held at that location because the Knoxville headquarters of Jacob Engineering is close by.

“It just seems like such an injustice and I had to speak out against it,” said Armstrong.

Dozens and dozens of people at the memorial were holding signs and wearing masks to support workers who cleaned up the coal ash spill.

“They paid with their lives. They’re continuing to pay. It’s heartbreaking to think that right before Christmas that accident happened. Here we are all these years later and we’re still fighting for acknowledgement,” said Dave Gorman with Jobs with Justice of East Tennessee.

Those standing on the sidewalk say they’re giving a voice and supporting workers’ families.

“I feel for the families who lost loved ones and those who are sick now and I pray for them,” added Armstrong.

Candles were held by those attending the memorial, organizers say it represents the lives that were lost.

“We’re here particularly today as we head into Christmas to tell those families of the 44 workers we remember them and that we hold their memory in sacred honor, and that we cry out with them for justice for those workers. As well as, for the over 400 other workers who are sick because of their exposure to the coal ash on the site,” said Pastor John Gill, Church of the Savior.

This group asking East Tennessee to not forget.

“People are still suffering. People are still dying. This legacy of disaster could have been prevented and since we didn’t prevent it, we should have at least protected the workers who were cleaning it up,” added Gorman.

We reached out to Jacobs Engineering for a statement however we’ve not heard back from them. It’s important to note, in the past attorneys for Jacobs Engineering have denied allegations that they failed to protect workers from toxins in the ash.


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