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'Not surprised:' Juliette residents discuss Georgia Power's legal response to lawsuit

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JULIETTE, Ga. -- Some Monroe County residents say they aren't surprised by Georgia Power's legal response to a lawsuit filed by dozens of Juliette residents over supposed coal ash contamination from Plant Scherer.

Georgia Power filed legal responses against the lawsuit September 28.

READ MORE: Georgia Power responds to Juliette lawsuit; asks 16 residents be barred from proceedings

Within those documents, the power company asked 16 residents and their claims be dismissed from the lawsuit, citing the statute of limitation had run out of their claims as those residents were a part of a similar lawsuit in 2013.

The company also requested multiple counts from the lawsuit be dismissed or have more definite statements. Those counts include negligence on the part of Georgia Power, coal ash contamination trespassing onto residential property and personal injury violations.

The document motion the counts be dismissed reads:

Many of these Plaintiffs tried unsuccessfully to bring a nearly identical lawsuit in 2013. Now, just like then, Plaintiffs fail to provide any information about their injuries or damages, how they were incurred, or how they are allegedly cause by Georgia Power. Instead, they rely entirely on the vague and unsubstantiated allegations that 'as long as Georgia Power maintains coal ash in its unlined Coal Ash Pond, the coal and its associated toxins will continue to discharge into Plaintiffs' groundwater and surface waters and infect the air around Plant Scherer.

WGXA spoke to residents not participating in the lawsuit about Georgia Power's legal response.

Mike Pless, a resident of Juliette on and off for the last 25 years, says the response did not surprise him.

"I wish I could say that I was, but I'm not terribly surprised," says Pless. "I think it goes back to classic idea that you've got a large entity, whether it be government or a business, that has gained a lot of power and influence. Then you've got the little people, the normal average citizen that doesn't necessarily have the same power, resources or influence. Inevitably there ends up being a David and Goliath type situation."

Pless says although this response isn't new, it is disappointing.

"It seems to me that if they had nothing to hide they would have nothing but to be able to prove that they haven't done anything wrong, they haven't done anything that would be able to be criticized and they wouldn't have a problem letting this go to court and play out so that in the end they can be shown to be an excellent member of the community like they claim they are, and I'm not saying they aren't."

He tells WGXA he would like to see these "traditional moves" to try to deny be put away.

"I would personally love it if they could prove there was no real damage being done to the environment or people; that this is just a bunch of torch bearing people who've gotten all worked up and don't understand the facts. Of course that is what they say, but being able to show that in a legitimate way would go along way towards helping prove they are a good citizen of the community."

He says from what he understands, technically the power company hasn't broken any laws, however he says there aren't any laws to address what the company is doing.

Pless tries to see it from the other side.

"To be even handed, if I were on that side of it I would probably be making that same attempts and efforts myself," he says. "Its hard to say unless you are walking in someone else's shoes but you are also talking about a large company. That's a different kind of animal because its not one to one. You're talking about a large company who has enormous influence not only in the state but the region."

He hopes that the people of Juliette will have their day in court and that whatever the truth is, it will prevail.

Andrea Goolsby, a life long resident of Juliette, says she's frustrated with the response.

"These big utility companies use fear and money to bully and intimidate the little people," claims Goolsby. "Every resident who has filed a claim deserve their day in court."

She says it isn't fair to asks that 16 residents who were on a prior lawsuit in 2013 to be removed from the current one.

"It's been an issue for years and there still isn't enough information gathered to show what the long term affects could be for the people who've lived in that area for a long period of time and they deserve the same treatment as people who are just now filing claims against Georgia Power," says Goolsby.

She says she would like to see some accountability for Georgia Power and a willingness to clean up the coal ash pond.

Either way, Goolsby tells WGXA the residents of Juliette are tenacious and won't "be left like a canary in a coal mine."

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WGXA reached out to Georgia Power about their legal response and received this statement:

As we said at the outset of this case, we believe that the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit. We saw similar claims several years ago that ended up being voluntarily dismissed. We are longtime members of this community; we live and raise our families here and take these allegations very seriously. Georgia Power stands firm behind its employees and the safe operations at Plant Scherer, and the company will continue to vigorously defend itself in this case.
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