By: Melina Matthes
OMAHA (kptm) - 100 million dollars, that's how much in health care costs the north Omaha community says they've paid out due to pollution from the nearby power plant. Parents in that part of town say they worry about their children's health.
A baseball field shadowed by the north Omaha power station has parents concerned with their children playing there. They say after a ball game, players are covered in soot. They wonder how much of it is getting in their lungs. We spoke with neighbors about this problem three months ago. They say nothing has changed and protestors say their voices are falling on deaf ears.
Heart attacks, asthma problems and death that is what is on the minds of protestors demanding change.
Dozens of nurses, health care professionals and citizens gathered outside OPPD's energy plaza. They claim pollution from the north Omaha coal plant is causing them health problems. Registered nurse, Melissa Bees says, "I'm concerned with the asthma rates of Omaha and the fact that the north Omaha coal plant is very possibly contributing to that with it's emissions from it's coal fired electricity."
10-year-old Adrian Craig has asthma. His mother believes it's from living near the plant. However, neighbors say dirty air isn't the only issue. Marlene Kerr says, "we do hear them cleaning the stacks, there's a lot of noise when they push a lot of air up through the stacks to clean that out of there you know?"
And she says it isn't just noisy…it's filthy. "It's everywhere, it just comes down through the air," Kerr said.
She says she notices the effects of the power plant just outside her house. In the summer soot collects on the patio, but what really surprises her, she says, happens during the winter. "After the storms are over you know and the snow is just sitting there…within a day it'll be brownish."
Mike Jones with OPPD says they understand their concerns. However, he says the problem isn't just coal. "We believe to say that north Omaha alone is responsible for some of the pollution problems that we're seeing. There are a lot of factors…you have vehicles, you have smoke from other industrial avenues and sources," Jones said.
Nurses say otherwise and gave OPPD board members the invoice of health costs.
OPPD says they are in compliance with all local, state and federal guidelines. They also say by next year they will have increased the number of wind power stations by more than 10 percent.
OPPD says it's looking at options for the coal-fueled plant, including shutting it down. However, officials say if the company does close the station, it could impact energy prices in the area.
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