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'We want our clean air': Oak Creek residents speaking out after finding coal dust

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OAK CREEK, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Oak Creek residents and health professionals are voicing their concerns after finding coal dust throughout the neighborhood. They believe it’s coming from a nearby We Energies coal pile.

On March 5, Oak Creek residents found layers of coal dust across their neighborhood in parks, on their cars, homes, and lawns. Independent studies confirm it was coal dust. Residents and doctors spoke out Wednesday against the coal plant. Longtime residents said enough is enough.

“We want our clean air and water back,” one resident said.

The Hilke’s and their two young children moved near the plant in January. Don Hilke said his health hasn’t been the same since.

“My children play in the playground, they're running in my yard,” Hilke said. “I want them to be healthy; breathing coal isn't going to help.”

Asthma and Allergy Specialist Dr. Michael Ganz claims he’s treated nearly 50 people in the Oak Creek area with conditions related to coal dust. He said small fine particles do the most damage.

“That gets into the large bronchial tubes in the lungs and it can't be expelled normally. The larger particles get caught in the upper respiratory track,” Dr. Ganz said.

Dr. Ganz said the coal dust can cause major breathing problems.

“Difficult breathing, cough, reoccurring respiratory infections, frequent asthma more often than would normally be expected,” Dr. Ganz said.

We Energies released a statement Wednesday which read in part:

The event that occurred in early March was a rare occurrence. However, we have reevaluated our operating procedures and are making modifications to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

                                                                                    (To see the full statement, see below.)

Several residents said We Energies has offered to clean their cars and outside of their homes this week, but many residents aren’t satisfied.

“I think it's kind of a joke. What is that compared to your health?” Resident Steve Chapman said.

For Hilke, he’ll stay until he feels it’s unsafe for his children.

“I love my house, but if my kids get sick I'll move in a heartbeat,” Hilke said.

Many are demanding We Energies attend the next public meeting on April 4 to hear residents’ concerns.



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