This tribal community of just 225 has seen more than its share of sickness. Tribal council member Vickie Simmons watched her brother, a former coal plant worker, die at age 31 from cardiomyopathy, the same thing that killed a fellow young plant worker down the street. Nearby, two babies in houses alongside each other were born with brain defects. One died at age 2, the other has had multiple surgeries.
In February, Simmons said, a series of infections took the life of the tribe’s chairman, who had been fighting to force the cleanup of what he and others contended was discarded toxic ash blowing from the recently shuttered coal plant a few hundred yards away. He was 44.
So the Trump administration’s move to scrap federal rules mandating a thorough cleanup of such ash landed in the community like a slap in the face, Simmons said.