Coal ash at airport in Asheville raises questions about workplace safety in North Carolina

A debate over the public health and environmental impacts of the Asheville Regional Airport expansion project is heating up mainly over the use of hundreds of thousands of tons of coal ash as filler. Environmental groups consider the material hazardous while the utilities companies disagree, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports.

While there are concerns regarding contamination of groundwater and for the well-being of residents who live in the area surrounding the construction site, at least one epidemiologist with the N.C. Division of Public Health says it is construction workers on the jobsite who are most at risk of a North Carolina work injury.

Worker safety is of particular concern because North Carolina has long been a leader in using coal ash as structural fill. High-profile media reports, like the series on Chinese-manufactured drywall made with coal ash found to be releasing noxious chemicals in people’s homes, have done little to ease concerns.

Now, the use and storage of coal ash, which contains heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury, is facing regulation by the EPA. Beginning mid-September, the agency is hosting a series of seven public hearing around the nation to address the issue.

For North Carolina workers, the highest health risk from coal ash exposure is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which refers to chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The cause of COPD has long been linked to occupational exposure, and specifically linked to exposure in the mining and construction industries, the Center for Disease Control reports. In fact, as of 2003, it is believed that up to 15 percent of the 10.7-to-24 million U.S. adults diagnosed with COPD were sickened in the workplace.

North Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys with Lee & Smith know that being stricken at work with a respiratory disorder is a lifelong battle that will have physical, emotional and financial consequences. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Contact Information