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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Residents Say Coal Co. Ruined Their Towns

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) - Drummond Co.'s coal-distilling ovens transformed the "pristine communities" of North Birmingham and Tarrant into "cesspools of industrial waste," according to seven Alabama residents allegedly suffering from blood and respiratory diseases.

The residents claim that the largely white defendants from the Alabama-based coal company are committing environmental injustice that perpetuates "in spirit" the "hardships and abuses" endured by slaves on a former plantation in the area.

Drummond's coke ovens, in which coal is distilled into coke used as fuel or in smelters, releases toxic plumes containing PCBs, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, including arsenic and beryllium, into their communities, the lawsuit states.

The plant in Northern Birmingham affects at least 18 schools and 48 churches, the suit claims, while the one in Tarrant impacts six recreational facilities and parks, along with five schools and 13 churches.

The seven plaintiffs, described as having cancers and blood and respiratory diseases, claim that Drummond violated at least 21 state and federal laws by releasing the toxins, failing to test for and warn about them, and fraudulently concealing their extent.

The company also failed to take reasonable measures to protect the public, and clean up or mitigate the pollution, the plaintiffs add.

Represented by Christina Wall and three co-attorneys from the Environmental Litigation Group, the residents seek a jury trial to get Drummond to stop the releases, investigate the extent of the contamination and assess remediation.

They also demand actual and punitive damages.

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