Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team
BOKOSHE, Oklahoma -- Families in Bokoshe are hoping there really is strength in numbers as they file a class action lawsuit against a global energy giant.
A mountain of coal combustion waste -or fly ash- towers over the tiny town of Bokoshe, Oklahoma. The ash comes from the local power plant, AES Shady Point, and is dumped here by the truckload.
The plaintiffs claim the fly ash has poisoned them. Of the thirty households closest to the dumpsite, more than half have battled cancer. Many in town have fought respiratory illness.
After battling state regulatory agencies for years, residents formed their own citizen group, advocating for themselves on a website and with videos about the lawsuit.
"It basically came down to... about the only avenue of escape we have is a citizen lawsuit," said Bokoshe resident Tim Tanksley.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit represent more than 500 people who live either in Bokoshe or within three miles of this site.
The defendants are more than twenty companies and people involved with the dumpsite, including AES Corporation.
The lawsuit claims those defendants were facilitating the release of hazardous materials into the community and engaged in a campaign of deception to mislead the community into believing that fly ash is not harmful. But they say the lawsuit is not about money.
"Our goal has always been about the safety and welfare of our town," said Bokoshe resident Susan Holmes. "Our goals from day one have been to have them stop dumping the fly ash, clean up the fly ash pit and to take care of any fly ash related illnesses and damages to the property that it caused."
A spokesperson for AES Shady Point did not answer our request for comment.
When the Oklahoma Impact Team first brought you this story last year, Senator Jim Inhofe and Congressman Dan Boren told us they would work closely with Governor Fallin to ensure the issues in Bokoshe were addressed.
Governor Fallin's staff said they have never met with Boren or Inhofe about Bokoshe or the fly ash.