Lawsuit claims Orlando Utilities Commission polluted area with cancerous toxins

Cancer rates near OUC 'drastically exceed' national average, attorneys say

Stanton Power Plant image from OUC.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Residents of neighborhoods near the Orlando Utilities Commission power plant claim that their properties have been contaminated by toxic byproducts that have caused cancer rates in the area to "drastically exceed" the national average.

A lawsuit was filed Thursday on behalf of residents of Stoneybrook, Avalon Park, Eastwood and other communities north of the power plant.

“This area is marketed as the perfect environment to raise your child but, despite being told this was a safe place for our family, our property was inundated with toxic contaminants from the coal plant,” plaintiff and Avalon Park resident Michelle Irizarry said. “As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to know I put my children in harm’s way because I was being misled about the true risks.”

[WEB EXTRA: Read the full lawsuit]

Attorneys for the plaintiffs wrote in a news release that the coal-fired power plants contaminated homes in the area and months of testing and investigating prove that carcinogenic toxins are present "at levels in excess of state and federal regulatory standards critical to protecting human health."

Along with the carcinogenic radionuclides and polyaromatic hydrocarbons found from coal combustion residuals and coal dust, attorneys said they also found high levels of polonium, which is a highly radioactive byproduct of coal ash that is known to cause cancers, genetic disorders and other health effects.

[READ: How chemicals can make their way into groundwater]

The lawsuit claims that contamination in the area has caused rates of pediatric central nervous system, blood and bone cancer to "drastically exceed" national levels. Central nervous system cancer in the neighborhoods near OUC is five to 10 times higher than the ratio nationwide, while the incidence ratio of Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a rare form of cancer seen primarily in children and young adults, is nine times higher than what it should be.

"While this cancer normally appears in only 1.7 children out of a million who are younger than 15, there are new cases of Ewing’s Sarcoma occurring every few years in the area near the coal plants," attorneys wrote.

OUC and developers in the area are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which is seeking a trail by jury, compensatory damages and removal of all radioactive waste and contaminants from residential properties, among other things. 

“We are bringing this lawsuit after many months of investigation, as well as testing of the local community’s soil and evaluating its effect on residents,” co-lead counsel Theodore J. Leopold, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, said. “These claims are filed with a tremendous amount of due diligence and scientific evidence. The connections we’ve seen between the coal plant, property damage, health issues, and child cancer are astounding and should be treated as a national outrage.”

OUC released a brief statement after the lawsuit was announced Thursday.

“The Stanton Energy Center’s operations are highly regulated by both the state and federal governments. OUC meets or exceeds all permitting requirements as environmental stewardship is one of the key principles of our organization. Due to the pending litigation, we cannot get into any additional detail at this time.”