United Mountain Defense, an environmental group working with the residents of Harriman, Tenn. impacted by the recent coal ash disaster, has arranged to provide interested folks with testing for heavy metal exposure -- but money is proving to be a problem.
The group found a lab willing to do the tests -- but the initial price quoted was $700 per person. While the lab lowered its price to $500, that's still proving onerous for some affected residents who are already facing additional financial burdens as a result of the disaster. So far, about 50 people have signed up for testing.
Here's what one of the UMD volunteers wrote in an e-mail to Chris Irwin, the group's attorney:
I need your help to get funding for the people of Harriman to have the toxicity testing done this Thursday, January 8th. I have spent the day calling people who signed up to get info about the heavy metal testing and it is breaking my heart to have to tell them that they will be required to pay $500 up front and then try to get reimbursed from their insurance companies. These people are telling me they feel sick, they are worried about their children, and some are not available because they are laying down and not feeling well. I had several people tell me they can't get the letter I emailed about the testing because they are homeless right now because of the TVA disaster.
The people that don't know me are saying thank you for the information and hanging up and the people that I have established a relationship with are saying 'are you crazy I don't have an extra $500 laying around and my lab testing deductable is $700 so I will never get reimbursed for this test.'
Please look for funding so I can tell these people something other that we are providing an opportunity to them that will just be one more big financial burden.
So far, the Tennessee Valley Authority and government agencies have declined to help despite requests for such testing. In the meantime, UMD is asking concerned citizens to pitch in to make the testing possible. If you would like to contribute to the testing fund, please click here.