Report finds disturbing pattern of illnesses at Southwestern PA prison surrounded by coal ash dump

Abolitionist Law Center and Human Rights Coalition release report detailing health problems at SCI Fayette

Contact: Ben Fiorillo                         bfiorillo@gmail.com                         412-482-0041

September 2, 2014: Pittsburgh, PA – Abolitionist Law Center and the Human Rights Coalition have released a report entitled, No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette, based on a year-long investigation into the health impacts of exposure to coal waste at the state prison in Fayette County, PA. The report reveals alarming rates of illnesses consistent with exposure to coal ash, a toxic byproduct of burning coal in power plants.

No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution FayetteSurrounded by “about 40 million tons of waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of cubic yards of coal combustion waste,” SCI Fayette is inescapably situated in the midst of a massive toxic waste dump. The prison was built on part of a Coal Refuse Deposit Area owned by Matt Canestrale Contracting, which currently operates a coal ash dump directly adjacent to the prison. Before Matt Canestrale Contracting took it over, the land was a dumping ground for coal waste from one of the world’s largest coal processing plants.

The investigation was launched in August of 2013 by Abolitionist Law Center (ALC), the Human Rights Coalition, and The Center for Coalfield Justice, after receiving reports of high rates of illnesses at SCI Fayette. Prisoners reported a number of overlapping symptoms and diseases, including chronic sore throats, extreme throat swelling, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, vision problems, stomach pain, and sores, cysts, and tumors in their mouths, noses, and throats, as well as on their skin. Many prisoners reported being diagnosed with thyroid disorders or cancer after arriving at SCI Fayette. Residents of the nearby town of LaBelle, PA have also reported high rates of breathing problems and cancer, and have been calling for the coal ash dump to be shut down.

“No Escape” represents the preliminary findings of the investigation, and more research is needed to better understand both the risks posed by the dump and the nature of prisoners’ health problems. Nonetheless, these preliminary findings raise legal questions about the location of the prison. According to the report, “Situating a prison in the midst of a massive toxic coal waste dump may be impermissible under the Constitution if it is shown that prisoners face a substantial risk of serious harm caused by exposure to pollutants from the dump.” ALC attorney Dustin McDaniel put it this way, “If the patterns of illnesses we’re seeing at SCI-Fayette are indeed related to pollution from the dump, then this prison should be shut down.”

8 Replies to “Report finds disturbing pattern of illnesses at Southwestern PA prison surrounded by coal ash dump”

  1. Pingback: 40 Million Tons Of Toxic Coal Waste Sit Next To Prison With ‘Alarming Rates Of Illness’

  2. This is horrifying . My fiance has complained of several ailments and the water for years buy we had no idea what he was being exposed to. They always tell him his rashes are allergic reactions! I’ve been saying it has to be the jail he’s allergic to for years , he gets heartburn constantly and complains of chest pain and he’s always saying he can’t stop using the bathroom but he acts like it’s no big deal so I don’t get upset .. more horrifying was when I visited and got a hot chocolate and he snatched it from me and poured it out and when I asked why he said the water is really bad here it smells like sulfur and I don’t want you drinking it .. well I have lupus and I’ve noticed that I feel I’ll and have flare ups after I visit him I thought it was the stress of seeing him in there originally but my last flare was horrible and I had a swollen throat and couldn’t talk for a week I believe it’s the exposure to the toxins causing my flares I have documented hospital visits from after visiting him and all this time I knew something was wrong at that jail but now I feel like I’m not crazy ! Please someone tell me what I can do to help with this .. I’m willing to start a picket and protest if need be !

  3. Pingback: 40 Million Tons Of Toxic Coal Waste Sit Next To Prison With ‘Alarming Rates Of Illness’ | ThinkProgress | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  4. Pingback: This gives a whole new meaning to ‘cruel and unusual punishment’… | Holes in the Foam

  5. my fiance is in there right now and been in there for 4 months and when i find this he better not get sick bc how didnt they known about it when the built the place .. seriouly

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