Lawsuits coming Thursday over Plant Scherer contamination claims, attorney says

hduncan@macon.comJanuary 30, 2013 

A team of attorneys plan to file a group of lawsuits Thursday on behalf of Juliette residents who claim their health and property has been harmed by contamination from Plant Scherer, a coal-fired power plant in Monroe County.

The Gautreaux & Adams law firm of Macon is working with Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik & Associates LLP of New York, a firm that handles high-profile environmental and personal injury cases. The attorneys held several community meetings in Juliette late last year to court potential clients.

Brian Adams, a partner in Gautreaux & Adams, said Wednesday that the lawsuits target the plant’s operator and primary owner, Georgia Power, as well as other owners of the plant. About half the cases also will name the nearby Vulcan Materials rock quarry, he said.

The lawsuits relate to environmental contamination such as uranium, chromium and arsenic in air or water, Adams said.

Adams declined to share further details before a news conference Thursday morning in Atlanta. The suits will be filed in State Court of DeKalb County.

Dozens of Juliette residents have found unsafe levels of uranium in their well water or airborne radon in their homes. Some of them have been diagnosed with uranium poisoning.

Uranium occurs naturally in the underground rocks of the Piedmont region, but residents have also questioned whether Plant Scherer’s huge coal ash pond, which contains many heavy metals including uranium, could be worsening the situation.

The Georgia Department of Public Health concluded in a “scoping report” last year that there was not evidence to show Plant Scherer was having any health effects on its neighbors, but indicated more water testing is needed.

The state is still working on its own health survey of residents and conducting radionucleide testing of Juliette wells with assistance from a federal Environmental Protection Agency lab.

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