At the end of last week, residents of East Orange County filed a lawsuit alleging that the coal-burning power plants in Orlando have poisoned their direct environments with “metal, chemical and radioactive residues that have triggered a local spike in rare cancer cases.”1 The lawsuit covers nearly 30,000 residents and 15,000 homes including those in Avalon Park, Stoneybrook, Eastwood, Cypress Springs, Andover Lakes/Cay, and Turnberry Pointe/Cay.

Michelle Irizarry and Valerie Williams, residents of Stoneybrook and Joanne Nixon of the Eastwood community filed the lawsuit. (Our hearts go out to these mothers and we stand with them in their fight.)

“The danger of such exposure is borne out by an epidemiologic analysis based on data from the Florida Cancer Disease Registry and a site investigation, which found a higher incidence of, for instance, pediatric brain and blood cancers including two exceedingly rare pediatric brain cancers.

The only source of these cancer-causing Contaminates is the Stanton Power Plant, which has a unique Contaminate fingerprint.”2

Coal plants have never been safe but given what we know now, that coal naturally contains radioactive elements, it’s time to shut them all down. Especially since the Stanton plants import coal from “most radioactive coal basin in the United States.”3 In fact, polonium-210, a product of decaying uranium-238 (which is found in coal) and in this case directly attributed to the Stanton Power Plant, was detected in East Orange in significant concentrations even though it is “exceedingly rare” in nature.


Cohen Milstein, a national firm that specializes in cases involving environmental threats to communities, is representing the families. (Lawyers from the firm are also representing plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit in Flint, Mich., and in another class action against E.I. DuPont de Nemours Co. over contamination of North Carolina’s Cape Fear River.)

The lawsuit also alleges that the developers marketed and built neighborhoods near the power plants and “did not take adequate steps to protect residents who bought homes,”4 even though “The suburban residential communities in the Class Area were touted [as] carefully planned developments that would provide luxurious, yet affordable, neighborhoods in which families and children could safely live, work, and play,”5 when in reality, “the contamination from the power plants has made homes and yards health hazards for residents and particularly children, and that private and public spaces should be cleaned up.”6


However the utility has defended the plants as necessary “for reliability and to hold down electricity rates for its more than 200,000 customers,”7 even though “Many of the external and unaccounted for costs of burning coal to produce electricity, a practice increasingly criticized as a leading threat to the planet’s health, have been left mostly unaddressed by OUC in its public meetings.”8

If the suit is successful the city of Orlando and its utility would be on the hook for millions.


But it’s not just the children who are suffering; the lawsuit also addressed increased occurrences of leukemia and neuroblastoma cases among adults.

Residential real estate developers Lennar Corp. and its subsidiary, U.S. Home Corp., and Avalon Park Group were also named in the suit. (One last point that should be mentioned: Mayor Buddy Dyer is a voting member of the “independently operated” utility governing board (they set operating policies). Sounds like another Florida politician we know!

We stand with these communities and will update you as the trial begins.


  1. Orlando Sentinel
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