Lawsuit claims emissions from KCP&L coal plant caused incurable disease

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lawsuit filed on Monday claims that emissions from a Kansas City Power & Light coal-fired electric power plant in La Cygne caused a woman to be sickened with an incurable illness.

The power plant, located about 60 miles from Kansas City, has been in operation since 1973 and underwent a $1 billion equipment upgrade project a few years ago.

In the lawsuit, the woman describes how she grew up on a farm in Pleasanton, a rural city in Linn County about four miles downstream from the power plant and currently home to around 1,100 residents.

The lawsuit goes on to detail how emissions from the plant and other issues, like a bottom ash settling pond not being designed or constructed by a professional engineer, allegedly led to water and soil becoming toxic.

The attorneys claim that after the groundwater allegedly became contaminated, the woman and her family drank, bathed in and used water taken from a well downstream from the plant and drilled into an aquifer that contained harmful materials.

The lawsuit describes how the woman underwent medical testing years after moving away from the farm in 1986.

The testing showed toxic levels of heavy metals, including uranium and lead, inside her body.

The woman also alleges that her exposure to the heavy metals led her to suffer “severe and permanent injuries” to her organs, nervous system, and other parts of her body.

After consulting a doctor following the medical test results, the woman was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome in March of 2017.

The lawsuit alleges that the doctor believed the woman developed the incurable autoimmune disease in response to environmental toxicity and her exposure to heavy metals.

The lawsuit also claims a chance encounter took place in July of 2016 between the woman’s mother and a contractor working at the La Cygne plant.

The whistleblower contractor, who the lawsuit says worked for Harsco Minerals International, allegedly told the mother that KCP&L knew the plant emitted heavy metals but did not test the environmental impact out of fear of fines and penalties. 

The toxic exposure allegations in the lawsuit took place before the KCP&L coal plant underwent an equipment upgrade project completed in 2015.

“In order to comply with federal air quality regulations, our La Cygne power plant needs significant equipment upgrades,” a post on the company’s website about the project reads. “Specifically, La Cygne needs to receive a baghouse, wet scrubber and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system to reduce emissions.”

KCP&L responded to the lawsuit allegations in a statement sent to 41 Action News on Tuesday.

“The La Cygne generating station is compliant with all federal and state air emission and water regulations,” it read. “We are reviewing the lawsuit that was filed yesterday (Monday).”

The woman at the center of the lawsuit is asking for damages of over $75,000, punitive damages, and costs associated with the case.

After being contacted by 41 Action News on Wednesday, the woman declined to comment on the pending case.

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