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Burchett says he might call for congressional review over coal ash illnesses

A federal jury in Knoxville last week found for plaintiffs who are seeking damages against a clea

Congressman-election Tim Burchett is threatening to launch a congressional investigation into how clean-up workers were exposed to toxic substances after the 2008 Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash disaster.

Last week, a federal jury in Knoxville found Jacobs Engineering failed to exercise due care for employees hired to clean up carcinogenic materials spilled when a wet coal ash dike failed at the plant in December 2008.

The verdict clears the way for dozens of workers to seek damages against Jacobs, hired by TVA in the aftermath of the disaster, which ended up costing some $1.2 billion to resolve. They allege they became sick and some even died from exposure to toxic materials.

They blame Jacobs for failing to give them enough protections and trying to hide the degree of dangerous materials they faced.

More: Jury finds for plaintiffs suing Jacobs Engineering

Burchett, elected last week to represent the 2nd Congressional District including Knoxville, released a statement Thursday.

Credit: file
The TVA is considering changes to the way it stores its coal ash, following a major ash spill in 2008 in Kingston.

"I have been following the recent news reports related to the illness and deaths of employees who worked on the TVA coal ash cleanup, and I am deeply disturbed by what is being reported," his statement reads.

"I hope that TVA, EPA and the US Attorney's office will fully investigate this matter. If necessary, I will seek a formal congressional investigation into this matter, because those affected deserve answers and anyone at fault should be held accountable."

TVA and EPA were not defendants in the lawsuit. TVA operates the plant but paid Jacobs more than $60 million to cleanup operations.

With last week's verdict, the plaintiffs' cases could proceed in U.S. District Court in several different ways. They could all individually seek trials, or representative cases could be picked on behalf of people who have suffered specific maladies.

Credit: WBIR
An aerial view of the damage after the TVA coal ash spill in Dec. 2008

In returning their verdict last week, jurors answered in the affirmative when asked if Jacobs might be responsible for maladies that ranged from hypertension to lung cancer, leukemia to skin cancer, and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to respiratory conditions.

They answered with a "Yes" checkmark to all.

Burchett has been in Washington this week preparing to assume his seat. His term representing the Knoxville area begins in January.

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