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Family suing TVA over alleged prolonged health problems from Bull Run plant

The Tuckers filed their complaint last week in Anderson County Circuit Court.

CLAXTON, Tenn. — A Claxton family alleges they've suffered multiple health problems from exposure to an especially toxic form of coal ash from a nearby coal-fired TVA energy plant.

Cruze and Amber Tucker are suing TVA in Anderson County Circuit Court. They filed the complaint for themselves and their children, Thomas Tucker and Avril Tucker.

The Tuckers seek damages of up to $30 million for health problems as well as punitive damages after trial.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said it was "not appropriate for us to comment on pending litigation."

The Tuckers live less than a half-mile from the Bull Run Steam Plant on Bull Run Creek near Oak Ridge. Coal ash is stored at the site.

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The family alleges "poisonous" coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal, has been emitted from the nearby plant that has caused prolonged health problems.

The boy "has had to endure seven surgeries at a mere 19 months of age, while suffering from neurological, heart, lung, skin and other severe health problems that will follow him for life."

The girl also suffers from neurological problems, among other maladies.

The whole family, the lawsuit alleges, has "lung, skin, sinus and other health problems."

The Tuckers say they've been exposed to a particularly toxic form of coal ash called "bottom ash."

Besides being exposed to the nearby ash, the lawsuit alleges, the family also suffered exposure because a grandfather regularly brought "fly ash around the children (on a) daily basis due to his occupation with a TVA fly ash subcontractor."

According to the complaint, "...TVA has not transparently been a good corporate citizen in this regard, and making it even more egregious TVA has selected lower income communities for creation and storage for this poisonous activity, because lower income communities have a decreased ability to resist this hazardous practice by TVA due to lack of money, compared to TVA's ability to falsely shape beliefs and opinions due to its billion-dollar PR marketing and lobbying power."

Last fall, some Claxton residents near the plant complained of an airborne substance floating over from the plant. They suspected it was coal ash.

TVA and state environmental authorities said samples of the substances showed they mostly were soil, not posing a threat to nearby residents.

The TVA board voted last year to close Bull Run by 2023 as part of a shift in energy production.

Bull Run is the only single-generator coal-fired power plant in the TVA system. When the generator went into operation in 1967, it was the largest in the world in the volume of steam produced.

A contractor for the utility giant has been engaged in protracted federal and state litigation over coal ash exposure by cleanup workers at its Kingston plant. Workers say they were sickened while working around coal ash they were hired to collect after a giant liquid coal ash spill in December 2008.

Some workers have died after working for Jacobs Engineering on the cleanup project.

TVA is not a defendant in the prolonged, ongoing federal litigation in U.S. District Court in Knoxville but has been named a plaintiff in lawsuits filed in state court as well as another federal suit filed in November.

Area elected officials have questioned whether TVA is telling the truth about the potential dangers of coal ash exposure. TVA says it's a good corporate citizen, and TVA chief Jeff Lyash has pledged transparency in addressing residents' concerns.

Clean-up workers hired after the 2008 spill say the coal ash includes a toxic mix of substances such as arsenic that can threaten human life.

The Tuckers are represented by Knoxville area lawyers James K. Scott, Keith D. Stewart and J. Tyler Roper, who also represent sickened Kingston workers.

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