February 20, 2019

Lawyers alleging that Orlando’s utility has contaminated east Orange County with hazardous pollutants said neighborhoods south of the city’s coal-powered electric plants may be added to a lawsuit.

Notice of the potential broadening of the lawsuit filed in December in state court came Tuesday night during a public meeting near the University of Central Florida attended by more than 150 people, many of whom came having done some homework but wanting detailed explanations about contamination types and concentrations and about health threats.

“It’s really concerning,” said Enrique Tenicela, an engineer who attended with his wife, Elena, and two children, ages 2 and 4. They said they worry about the health of their children and wonder if the value of their home could decline. “It’s scary,” she said. “What are we going to do?” he added.

The lawsuit claims that the Orlando Utilities Commission and developers of subdivisions just north of the two coal plants are exposing residents to toxic chemicals and radioactive elements contained primarily in airborne dust from coal ash, and that rare adult cancers and pediatric cancers have been on the rise in nearby neighborhoods.

Lawyers filing the suit have stressed they expect to add neighborhoods and communities to their list that so far specifies Avalon Park, Stoneybrook, Eastwood, Cypress Springs, Andover Lakes/Cay and Turnberry Pointe/Cay. Those are within about 5 miles of the coal-burning power plants.

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Theodore Leopold, another of the lawyers behind the suit, said the proceeding could play out for two to four years.

“Although we have done a tremendous amount of investigation in the last 12-plus months and testing and we are in litigation, that does not mean that we're not going to continue to both test, investigate and add additional communities into this litigation,” Leopold said. “Our goal, because of the urgency of these issues, is to move it as quickly as we can.”

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