Jennifer Loren, Oklahoma Impact Team
BOKOSHE, Oklahoma – An Oklahoma power company at the center of the environmental battle held a news conference to clear the air Wednesday.
The fight is centered around a fly ash dump site in the tiny town of Bokoshe, in LeFlore County.
Fly ash is a byproduct of burned coal. It's full of heavy metals like arsenic and lead that are known to be harmful to people.
For ten years, the AES power plant has been transporting fly ash off their site by the truckload and dumping at a site in Bokoshe. It's become the largest dump site of its kind in the state.
Bokoshe residents are fighting to stop the dumping. They claim it's caused various health problems including cancer and respiratory issues.
"We have had a very bad rash of cancers and respiratory problems." Charles Tackett, Bokoshe resident, said.
They say they can't prove the connection, but the closest residents to the fly ash site have come down with respiratory problems and a host of cancers.
In fact, some of the residents recently put up a sign that says welcome to Bokoshe, home of a toxic fly ash dump.
In a news conference Wednesday, a spokesman for the power company denied any link to illness, said they're tired of hearing the false accusations, and that they're not going anywhere.
"We think that they are unsupported allegations," said Lundy Kiger, an AES Shady Point spokesman. "And we think that from the way that we handled the product, the way they're handling the product, and under the current regulations that we've got, that there's not a reason to go find another site."
Kiger also said the company has worked with the people of Bokoshe to address their concerns.
"We've followed all regulations for the management of fly ash and will continue to do so at the state and federal level." Lundy Kiger, AES Shady Point Spokesman:
There are currently no federal regulations and the Bokoshe site alone is regulated by three different state agencies, none of which will take full responsibility for the site.
A spokesman for the dump site itself said they feel the state regulations are sufficient.
"We have no complaint about how that's structured," said Joe Foster. "I think I would chime in with the philosophy that if the legislature wants to change that and put it all under one agency, we will work with one agency."
The environmental protection agency is currently looking into the possibility of taking over fly ash regulation from the states. If it does, fly ash could be labeled a hazardous waste.