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Applying science to the coal plant emissions

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Updated: 7/11/2012 6:05 pm
It is a David versus Goliath fight. Less than 400 Moapa Paiutes taking on NV Energy are trying to shut down the Reid Gardner Coal Plant. News 3's Reed Cowan is investigating. The Paiutes claim the plant is slowly killing them? Tonight we ask a scientist. Here's the bottom line, you pay for electricity made at Reid Gardner with money. Moapa Paiutes say--they pay for it--with their lives.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- As News 3 showed earlier, NV Energy presented its side of the story on how they've retrofitted the aging plant to make it safe. Moapa Paiutes say this is not good enough. So we took this story to another level and asked a scientist.

“So we are well inside the Reid Gardner plant"

When escorted through the old coal plant Moapa Paiutes say poisons their air, NV Energy insisted that we wear protective lenses and ear plugs.

No air masks were provided because, despite the dust our cameras caught blowing hundreds of feet in the air, NV Energy says “the air is better up here than it is down there.”

Having interviewed Moapa Paiutes who provided photos of white dust from Reid Gardner Coal Plant descending on their town--we wondered about the safety of the dust we walked through--dust that ended up in our shoes--on our clothes, and inside our car.

News 3 took some of this dust to Effex Lab in Las Vegas and News 3's Reed Cowan has the results.

“The concentrations are higher than what I would expect,” said Nevada certified chemist Xavier Suarez.
“If you were exposed to these chemicals. ... If this material gets up in the air in my opinion it would not be healthy.”

That material according Effex labs--arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury. selenium and silver.

The Moapa Paiutes arguing sustained exposure from these elements blowing in the wind are what's making them sick.

“This got in to my chest, and to my lungs I couldn't breathe,” says Russell Samson.

NV Energy countering with lab results of their own and the numbers they provide drastically differ from our lab's findings.

Our sample showing 31 parts per million of chromium. Theirs shows the number 1.1

Our sample showing 4.1 parts per million of arsenic. Theirs reads: "non detectable"

One possible explanation—NV Energy's sample came from fly ash collected inside their bag houses.

Our sample came from material laying next to it on the ground and blowing up in the air.

Air--one chemist says--he wouldn't do business in:

"If i had this kind of exposure i would evacuate the lab until it got cleaned out," Suarez said.

The EPA conducting studies of their own, which will include science and testimony from Moapa Paiutes.

News 3 learned that a ruling is coming within days and while scientists study adn NV Energy works to respond, Moapa Paiutes like Russell Samson, wait.

“I think they should close the whole thing down,” Samson said.  “It's affecting not only me but young kids.”

It's important to note that NV Energy's testing procedure is entirely different from those Effex lab used which could account for the different results.

The EPA is expected to issue their ruling on Reid Gardner this week. we will bring it to you as soon as it is released.

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