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Toxic Coal Waste Exposure at PA SCI Fayette Abolitionist Law Center 2014

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No Escape:

Google Earth, 2014

Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste
at State Correctional Institution Fayette

DUSTIN S. MCDANIEL
Executive Director, Abolitionist Law Center
BRET GROTE
Legal Director, Abolitionist Law Center
BEN FIORILLO
Human Rights Coalition
DEVON COHEN
Human Rights Coalition
QUINN A. COZZENS
Legal Intern, Abolitionist Law Center

Special thanks to
Center for Coalfield Justice,
Three Rivers Community Foundation,
and to the prisoners of SCI Fayette whose
correspondence laid the foundation of this report.

No Escape: Exposure to Toxic Coal Waste at State Correctional Institution Fayette

AERIAL VIEW OF SURFACE PERMITS — LABELLE, PA

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I. OVERVIEW

I have four years left on my sentence and that could be a death sentence with the contamination here.1
A 12-month investigation into the health impact
of exposure to toxic coal waste on the prisoner
Surrounded by “about 40 million tons of
population at State Correctional Institution (SCI)
Fayette has uncovered an alarming rate of serious
waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of
health problems. Surrounded by “about 40 million
cubic yards of coal combustion waste,” SCI
tons of waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of
cubic yards of coal combustion waste,” SCI Fayette
Fayette is inescapably situated in the midst
is inescapably situated in the midst of a massive toxic
waste dump.2 Over the past year, more and more
of a massive toxic waste dump.
prisoners have reported declining health, revealing
a pattern of symptomatic clusters consistent with
exposure to toxic coal waste: respiratory, throat and sinus conditions; skin irritation
and rashes; gastrointestinal tract problems; pre-cancerous growths and cancer;
thyroid disorders; other symptoms such as eye irritation, blurred vision, headaches,
dizziness, hair loss, weight loss, fatigue, and loss of mental focus and concentration.
The Human Rights Coalition (HRC), Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ), and the
Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) launched this investigation in August 2013. The
investigation is not only ongoing, but also is expanding, as HRC and ALC continue
to document reports of adverse health symptoms and environmental pollution,
interview current and former prisoners at SCI Fayette, and conduct research.
No Escape describes the preliminary findings from our investigation into the
declining health of prisoners at SCI Fayette while providing context about the
toxic environment surrounding the prison.
Our investigation found:
• More than 81% of responding prisoners (61/75) reported respiratory, throat, and
sinus conditions, including shortness of breath, chronic coughing, sinus infections,
lung infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, extreme swelling of the
throat, as well as sores, cysts, and tumors in the nose, mouth, and throat.
• 68% (51/75) of responding prisoners experienced gastrointestinal problems,
including heart burn, stomach pains, diarrhea, ulcers, ulcerative colitis, bloody
stools, and vomiting.
• 52% (39/75) reported experiencing adverse skin conditions, including painful
rashes, hives, cysts, and abscesses.
• 12% (9/75) of prisoners reported either being diagnosed with a thyroid disorder
at SCI Fayette, or having existing thyroid problems exacerbated after transfer to
the prison.

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• Eleven prisoners died from cancer at SCI Fayette between January of 2010 and
December of 2013. Another six prisoners have reported being diagnosed with
cancer at SCI Fayette, and a further eight report undiagnosed tumors and lumps.
Unlike reports of health problems from prisoners at other Pennsylvania Department
of Corrections (PADOC) prisons, most SCI Fayette prisoners discuss symptoms
and illnesses that did not emerge until they arrived at SCI Fayette. The patterns
of illnesses described in this report, coupled with the prison being geographically
enveloped by a toxic coal waste site, point to a hidden health crisis impacting a
captive and vulnerable population. Our investigation leads us to believe that the
declining health of prisoners at SCI Fayette is indeed caused by the toxic environment surrounding the prison; however, the inherent limitations of the survey do
not establish this belief at an empirical level. A substantial mobilization of resources
for continued investigation will be required to confirm the relationship between
prisoner health and pollution from coal refuse and ash.
Our findings raise serious constitutional questions as well. The investigation has
uncovered significant evidence that SCI Fayette may be unconstitutional based on
its location. Under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition
against cruel and unusual punishment, prisons are forbidden from imposing
conditions of confinement that deprive prisoners of basic human needs. Situating
a prison in the midst of a massive toxic coal waste dump may be impermissible
under the Constitution if it is shown that prisoners face a substantial risk of serious
harm caused by exposure to pollutants from the dump.
In addition to evidence that conditions of confinement at SCI Fayette violate the
Constitution due to the prison’s proximity to the toxic coal dump, our investigation
found that prisoners’ rights to medical care under the Eighth Amendment to the
Constitution are reportedly violated on a regular basis. Prison officials are required
to provide necessary medical care to those in their custody, and deliberate
indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs is unconstitutional.

Health is a human right, and if the patterns
that have emerged during our investigation
are indicative of the harms and risks that
accompany confinement at SCI Fayette, then
it is imperative that the prison is shut down.

2

The preliminary findings discussed below are intended
to shine a spotlight on a serious and growing injustice,
as well as to highlight one of the ways that mass
incarceration interacts with broader concerns about
environmental health and justice. Prisoners at SCI
Fayette need environmental justice: access to clean air
and water, prompt diagnostic care, required surgical
treatment, and all other necessary medical care. Health
is a human right, and if the patterns that have emerged
during our investigation are indicative of the harms
and risks that accompany confinement at SCI Fayette,
then it is imperative that the prison is shut down.

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II. BACKGROUND ON THE LABELLE COAL REFUSE DISPOSAL AREA
LaBelle is a small rural-Pennsylvania community in Luzerne Township, Fayette
County, which is defined by two major industries: a 506-acre coal ash dump and
a maximum security state prison. The dump, operated by Matt Canestrale
Contracting (MCC) since 1997, receives coal ash waste from coal-fired power
plants throughout the region.3
Before MCC began dumping coal ash there in the late 90s, the site was one of the
largest coal preparation plants in the world, where coal from nearby mines was
washed and graded.4 The “cleaned” coal was then shipped overland and by barge on
the Monongahela, while the remaining coal refuse was dumped on and around the
site.5 By the mid-90s, an estimated 40 million tons of coal refuse were dumped at the
site, over hundreds of acres and “at depths approaching 150 feet in some places.”6
In 1994, the former owner of the site filed for bankruptcy and abandoned operations,
leaving numerous legacy waste issues over the extent of the 1,357-acre property.7
In 1996, MCC purchased the entire property and subsequently entered into an
agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
to engage in coal refuse disposal for site reclamation.8 The dumpsite was later
restricted to its current 506-acre footprint,9 in part through the transfer of 237
acres to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the construction of SCI Fayette.10

Operation of the Coal Ash Dump and Environmental Effects
As discussed above, “coal refuse” describes the waste produced when coal is
cleaned and graded before it is burned. “Coal ash,” on the other hand, describes
the wastes produced by burning coal in power plants. MCC’s reclamation plan is
to “cap” the coal refuse dump by spreading flue gas desulfurization (FDG) sludge, a
liquid form of coal ash, over the entire area to create a barrier preventing rainwater
from leaching chemicals into soil, surface water, and groundwater.11 The FDG cap
is then covered with a mixture of dry coal ash and topsoil.12 This mixture of coal
ash and topsoil is also used to stabilize a dam holding back a large pond of coal
slurry (Slurry Pond 3).13 This dam is categorized as a “high” hazard, meaning that
its failure is “likely to cause loss of human life.”14
In the 17 years that MCC has been operating the
dump, the company has routinely been in violation
In the 17 years that MCC has been operating
of state and federal law.15 Most seriously from a public
the dump, the company has routinely been in
health standpoint, is MCC’s perpetual violation of the
Air Pollution Control Act, which prohibits allowing
violation of state and federal law.
particulate matter to leave the boundaries of the
dumpsite.16 Ash is regularly seen blowing off the site
or out of haul trucks and collecting on the houses of local residents as well as the
prison grounds at SCI Fayette.17 Local residents have filed numerous complaints to
the DEP in recent years, but the DEP has done little more than issue notices of
violation, and in rare instances assessed fines against MCC.18
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A series of tests performed by Citizens Coal Council (CCC), a national advocacy
group which filed a lawsuit against MCC in 2013 for its violations of environmental regulations, revealed the presence of high levels of toxic metals associated
with coal ash in the surface and ground water near the site.19 Samples were taken
at streams, wells, and drainage pipes which tested at levels of dissolved iron over 60
times greater than the Pennsylvania standard, more than 5 times the Pennsylvania
standard for manganese, and 10 times the standard for sulfate.20 The most recent
tests performed by CCC also found levels exceeding state or federal standards for
thallium (0.4µg/L), arsenic (15.1µg/L), cobalt (33µg/L), boron (2,550µg/L),
aluminum (343µg/L), total dissolved solids (4,510mg/L), and both excessively high
and low pH levels.21 Testing for Stream 3, which marks the southern and eastern
boundaries of SCI Fayette, found excessive levels of arsenic, boron, cobalt, iron,
manganese, and sulfate.22
In the nearby town of LaBelle, the most likely form of
exposure to these toxins is inhalation of the particulate
Luzerne had 170 heart-disease deaths from
matter that blows off the site and the haul trucks.23
2000 through 2008 — 26 percent higher
Dust found on the properties of LaBelle residents
reportedly included coal ash particles, which had
than the national average.
“Mine Dump levels of antimony, arsenic, chromium
and lead consistent with levels found in ash.”24 Many
residents of LaBelle suffer from chronic headaches and fatigue, respiratory problems,
kidney failure, and several forms of cancer.25 In 2010 the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
reported that in one section of LaBelle, “residents say there are nine cases of cancer
in the 18 houses.”26 The report went on to say, “While there’s no scientific proof
that fly ash or other forms of pollution are causing [these] health problems, Luzerne
Township has elevated mortality levels for diseases that have been linked to pollution
exposure... Luzerne had 170 heart-disease deaths from 2000 through 2008 — 26
percent higher than the national average.”27
These problems are likely to get worse with more coal and coal ash planned for
the dump and the nearby river docks. On June 24, 2014, DEP renewed MCC’s air
emissions permit, allowing it to transport and dump 416,000 tons of coal ash per year
at LaBelle.28 However, MCC has reportedly entered into a “long-term agreement”
with FirstEnergy to receive “more than 3 million tons of coal ash and smokestack
scrubber waste each year,” and dump it at the Labelle site beginning in 2017.29 The
agreement allows FirstEnergy to dispose of ash that would have gone to the Little
Blue Run dump in Beaver County, which was recently ordered to close due to the
health threat it poses to nearby residents.30 Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers is granting a permit to Alpha PA to build a new coal terminal at the
Labelle Dock,31 while DEP has announced its intent to increase the permitted coal
throughput of the facility from 3,500,000 tons per year to 10,000,000 tons per year.32
Alpha PA is a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources, which was recently assessed a
record fine of $227,500,000 for seven years of illegally discharging pollutants into
the waters of Pennsylvania, Kentucky,Tennessee,Virginia, and West Virginia.33
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Coal Ash and Human Health
Public health experts recognize that coal ash contains numerous harmful
constituents, including mercury, lead, arsenic, hexavalent chromium, cadmium,
boron, and thallium.34 The chemicals in coal ash can cause or contribute to many
serious health conditions including: skin, eye, nose and throat irritation; asthma;
emphysema; hypertension; anemia; heart problems; nervous system damage; brain
damage; liver damage; stomach and intestinal ulcers; and many forms of cancer
including skin, stomach, lung, urinary tract, and kidney cancers.35 In its 2010
report, “Coal ash: the toxic threat to our health and environment,” Physicians for
Social Responsibility summarized the risks posed by coal ash: “In short, coal ash
toxics have the potential to injure all of the major organ systems, damage physical
health and development, and even contribute to mortality.”36
Despite this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not currently
classify coal ash as a hazardous waste, though reclassification has been under
consideration since 2010.37 In Pennsylvania, coal ash is authorized for “beneficial
use” in reclamation projects, such as at MCC’s dump.38 When authorized for
“beneficial use” coal ash is intended to reduce leaching and balance the pH at
coal refuse sites and abandoned coal mines. However, in attempting to solve
these problems “beneficial use” creates new ones by increasing the toxicity of the
leachate at reclamation sites,39 while also causing air pollution as wind blows ash
off the sites and the vehicles used to transport the material.40 With this in mind,
it does not appear that coal ash has a legitimate “beneficial use” that outweighs its
negative environmental and health consequences. Rather, it seems the classification
of coal ash for “beneficial use” is designed to evade the cost of safely regulating the
massive volume of coal ash created by coal-fired power plants, which is the
country’s second largest waste stream.41

III. ILLNESS, NEGLECT, AND CANCER: FINDINGS OF PRELIMINARY
INVESTIGATION INTO PRISONER HEALTH AT SCI FAYETTE

I have 37-months in on a five to ten year sentence and fear
that I will not live to see my 13-year old son.42
In August 2013, the Center for Coalfield Justice (CCJ), a Washington, PA-based
environmental justice group, the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), a statewide
prisoners’ rights group, and the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) launched an
investigation into the health problems at SCI Fayette. The investigation team sent
surveys to prisoners inquiring about health problems and environmental conditions
at the facility. As of July 2014, the investigation team has sent 152 surveys, with 63
prisoners responding to the surveys, and another 12 prisoners writing us separately
to share their stories about conditions at SCI Fayette. The investigation team also
visited and interviewed 4 prisoners who were dealing with particularly severe
symptoms.

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Some prisoners have consented to having their names used and are identified
below. Certain names have been withheld and dates have been altered in order to
protect the identities of the people providing the information. All factual information
pertaining to prisoner medical conditions, health care treatment, and evidence of
pollution is shared exactly as reported.
When reviewing the findings described below it is important to recognize that
under-reporting of health problems is common amongst the prisoner population.
Prisoners may be reluctant to admit health problems for fear of being perceived as
weak or vulnerable. Others may be unwilling to report their health condition or
complain about medical care to an outside organization because they fear retaliation
from prison staff. Some prisoners are too sick to correspond about their condition,
others remain unaware that their symptoms may be caused by exposure to toxic
coal waste, or that our investigation is occurring.
The investigation has found alarming patterns of illness. The conditions reported
most frequently by prisoners are described below. In over 81 percent of cases
(61/75), prisoners exhibited more than one symptom from the four main categories
we used to organize the data: respiratory, throat, and sinus conditions; skin
irritation, rashes, and hives; gastrointestinal problems; and cancers. Thus, the
information below does not fully capture the severity of many cases in which
prisoners have multiple overlapping symptoms. For example, the list of symptoms
from Joshua Turner was typical of many reports we received from prisoners:
I’m writing to notify you of the severe problems I’ve been having since I have been in SCI
Fayette for over 2 years. I’m going to give you a list of the problems I’m having: 1) hair loss;
2) [recurring] rashes; 3) diarrhea; 4) vomiting; 5) weakness and dizziness and sickness
feelings in my stomach; 6) when I blow my nose blood comes out; 7) shortness of breath; 8)
burning in my eyes; 9) throat problems; 10) headaches; 11) burning when I pee.43

Correlation Between Illness and Confinement at SCI Fayette
Unlike prisoners writing about health problems from other PADOC prisons, most
prisoners from SCI Fayette discuss symptoms and illnesses that did not emerge
until they arrived at the prison. The patterns of illnesses described below, coupled
with the prison being geographically enveloped by “about 40 million tons of
waste, two coal slurry ponds, and millions of cubic yards of coal combustion
waste,”44 suggest that environmentally toxic living conditions are causing prisoners
to become sick.
Prisoner accounts of symptoms graphically illustrate this correlation:
I have been evaluated by medical when I came here and everything was fine and I was
healthy. Since being here I get nosebleeds 2 to 3 times a week. I constantly got a headache.
I have known that my vision has dropped a lot and it is hard to see. I wear glasses, and
they are now not strong enough to see good.

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I was also checked for asthma when I got here due to having it in the past. And I was fine. I
haven’t had no problems with breathing in years. More than 8 years [since] I have had to use
an inhaler. Since being in this jail I am wheezing on a day to day basis.45
In April 2013, Marcus Santos wrote:
[S]ince transfer to this facility on February
14, 2012 I’ve had to endure numerous
medical problems... I have required
emergency medical treatment eight times
due to the swelling in my face and throat.

[S]ince my transfer to this facility on February 14, 2012
I’ve had to endure numerous medical problems. ie: Rashes
through out my body that hurt and keeps me up all night.
Extreme swelling of various parts including my throat
making it difficult to breathe. My face would swell and
pictures were taken showing the condition of my eyes and my
vision still has not returned fully to them. I have required
emergency medical treatment eight times due to the swelling
of my face and throat.46

This relationship between confinement at SCI Fayette and declining health was
further reinforced when Marcus Santos was transferred to another prison. Since
Marcus arrived at SCI Smithfield his symptoms subsided substantially or completely.
He still suffers periodic swelling and outbreaks of rashes, though they are less
frequent and less severe. He no longer experiences nausea or shortness of breath. He
still suffers from dizzy spells, but these are also less frequent and less severe. His
muscles still hurt, however, which is something else that began at SCI Fayette.47
Another prisoner shared this story:
Second week of coming into SCI Fayette, I came down with flu-like symptoms. A few
months later I maybe would eat dinner 3 times a week, I cut out breakfast and lunch
altogether because I had no appetite, and was too fatigued to walk to the chow hall. I no
longer had the strength to workout... Just constant headaches and loss of appetite and
physical motivation.When I took showers, I noted that my eyes would be burning and my
vision would be blurred for about 15 minutes, afterwards, and it would feel like sand was in
my eyes.These symptoms have been going on almost since the time I came into Fayette, but
now that I’m at [another prison] I’m eating every meal, working out every day, and
experiencing no headaches...48
The emergence of these symptoms upon arriving at a prison engulfed by toxic waste
and the abruptness with which they subside upon being transferred strongly suggests
a causal relationship. The patterns of illness uncovered during our investigation are
also consistent with exposure to toxins found in coal ash and refuse.

Respiratory,Throat and Sinus Conditions
Respiratory, throat and sinus conditions are the most commonly reported health
problems. Over 81% (61/75) of prisoners reported one or more of the following
symptoms: runny nose, nose bleeds, sinus infection, cough, sore throat, swollen

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throat, shortness of breath, lung infections. In most cases these symptoms have
become chronic conditions that cannot be explained as periodic colds.
One prisoner who has been incarcerated at SCI Fayette since 2004 reports a long
history of respiratory and sinus problems that originated upon his arrival at the
prison. His symptoms began with “throat and chest congestion” and “itchy red
eyes.” Then, “I started to have other symptoms, like when my lymph nodes in my
neck swelled to the size of walnuts for no good reason... the development of a
chronic sinus infection... followed by the cyst that grew under one of my teeth that
led to it having to be pulled... I am currently fighting a lung infection for which I
am on breathing treatments.”49
Lance Rucker reported “serious throat irritation” and chronic wheezing shortly
after arriving at SCI Fayette,50 while another prisoner wrote of suffering from a
severe cough for eight months that caused him to “cough so hard” that he developed
“blood blisters” in the back of his throat.51 Michael Dean described throat
irritation that was so severe he lost his voice:
In December of 2012, I lost my voice completely. My throat was in constant pain, yet all
medical did was to try whatever drug they felt would cure what was wrong with me. I was
given mostly drugs used to treat a sore throat. By February or March, I was given a drug
called “Claritin,” as they believed I was suffering due to “acid reflux.” I was eventually
taken to UPMC in Pittsburgh, where it was found I had a large growth on my vocal chords.
I underwent surgery on April 27, 2013, where the growth was removed. I have regained
some vocal abilities but I’m not the same as before. Also, I am still having sinus troubles as
there seems to be a recurring growth in my right sinus.52
Anthony Willingham reported a similar occurrence:
After six to nine months here, I began to develop more frequent shortness of breath and heavy
mucus discharge. It became so chronic that I had to have
I was told by the medical department that it
breathing treatments daily — morning and evening.The cough
became so violent that I developed a chronic hoarseness and
was just a “scratchy throat — gargle with
scratchy throat.To this day I can barely talk. I was told by the
medical department it was just a “scratchy throat — gargle
warm water.” A year later I found out it was
with warm salt water.”
far more than a scratchy throat!... Upon
A year later, I found out that it was far more than a scratchy
seeing a throat surgeon at UPMC... he put a
throat! It was around this time that I discovered a growth, in
my mouth, under my tongue.The dental surgeon removed it
camera down my throat...and showed me the
and sent it out for biopsy and it came back negative; however,
polyps on my vocal chords.
the growth came back in two weeks, twice as big.This time
after a second biopsy, it came back positive — I had cancer.
Upon seeing a throat surgeon at UPMC (Dr. Jonas Johnson) he explained to me the type
and location of the cancer; moreover, he questioned me about how long my voice was so
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hoarse? I told him about a year-plus. He put a camera down my throat (still shaking his
head in disbelief) and showed me the polyps on my vocal chords. It wasn’t just a scratchy
throat!53
Marcus Santos experienced swelling in his throat, as well as on his face, arms and
legs, which became so severe that it restricted his breathing, causing him to fear for
his life. A doctor outside the prison who examined Marcus recommended his transfer
to another prison because his condition was life-threatening. Marcus reported:
I suffered almost everyday of the 15 months I was at that prison. I almost died due to throat
swelling several times. Given tums for throat swelling and told that if I start choking there is
nothing that he can do for me. At that point it became clear to me that I am being left for dead.
With no other course to take or relief in sight I called my brother and told him that I don’t
believe I’m going to make it through the rest of my time and to please take care of my son.54

Skin Irritation and Rashes
52% (39/75) of prisoners report some type of skin condition. Many note that their
skin is chronically dry and irritated, and a number report severe rashes and hives.
Four weeks after being transferred to SCI Fayette, Roy Davis wrote, “My face
began itching and burning about three days after being here and now it’s
completely inflamed and hurts to the touch.”55 Soon after his arrival, Marcus
Santos developed a rash on his left side with large welts that was so irritated it
disrupted his sleep for months.56
In another case, a prisoner developed a rash that covered three-quarters of his body
with large bumps a half-inch in diameter. In 48 hours, “The bumps grew into one
big mound on my arm. Almost my entire body was covered a week later. The
bumps were the color of my skin. They leaked fluid. They are painful. They felt like
needle pricks, some felt like needle stabs.” Prison medical staff later diagnosed his
condition as psoriasis.57 When asked to describe any additional health problems,
another prisoner reported “Abscesses (boils)… keeps comin and going first under
my L armpit, then R, and then in my ear canal, and in my large intestine.”58 A few
prisoners also reported raised bumps or rashes that would bleed.59

Gastrointestinal Tract Problems
Well over half (51/75; 68%) of prisoners reported problems with their stomachs
and digestive tracts, including: heart burn, stomach and abdominal pain, vomiting,
diarrhea, bloody stools, duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and intestinal polyps. For
many prisoners, these symptoms have become chronic, lasting multiple years, and
suggesting systemic problems, rather than common infections.
Five prisoners report persistent bloody stools. One prisoner wrote that he had
“blood in feces and urine, as well as constant vomiting.” These symptoms were
accompanied by “headaches, severe skin dryness, blurry vision, kidney and liver

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pain,” and kidney stones. None of these symptoms were present before the
prisoner arrived at SCI Fayette.60 Another prisoner wrote, “Since I’ve been here
I’ve been unable to have a regular bowel movement.”61
Three prisoners have been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a rare disease in which
ulcers form in the colon causing severe diarrhea and bloody stool. Some research
suggests that environmental factors can contribute to the development of ulcerative
colitis and other inflammatory diseases in the gastrointestinal tract.62 One of the
prisoners with the disease explains:
I was having frequent bowel movements that consisted of nothing but diarrhea and blood... As
time went by, my condition got worse to where I could not even drink water without having a
bloody bowel movement... I was taken to Allegheny General Hospital’s emergency room... and
was diagnosed as bleeding internally and severely dehydrated. I was given a colonoscopy and
was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis.”63

Cancers
Between January 2010 and December 2013, seventeen prisoners died while at SCI
Fayette.64 Eleven of these deaths (64.7%) were due to cancer, four (23.5%) were
caused by heart attacks or strokes, and two were caused by liver failure (11.7%).65
Of the 75 prisoners we received responses from, six reported being diagnosed with
cancer while at SCI Fayette (8%). Eight of the prisoners we communicated with
reported undiagnosed tumors and polyps (10.6%).
Of the total diagnosed cases of cancer, both dead and living, the type and frequency
of particular cancers were as follows: lung cancer (3); brain cancer (2); colon cancer
(2); tongue cancer (2); liver cancer (2); tonsil cancer (1); stomach cancer (1); bladder
cancer (1); prostate cancer (1); lymphoma (1); and leukemia (1). Prisoners reporting
undiagnosed tumors and polyps mentioned the following affected areas: testicles (3);
vocal chords (2); intestines (1); lungs (1); and unspecified (1).
Some of these undiagnosed growths, tumors, and
polyps have been surgically removed or recommended
for surgery by outside medical experts, while others
staff delay diagnostic treatment, and are
have yet to be seriously examined. Many prisoners
report that prison medical staff delay diagnostic
reluctant to conduct more expensive testing
treatment, and are reluctant to conduct more expensive
testing that may reveal the presence of cancer. Such
that may reveal the presence of cancer.
reports reveal what amounts to a pattern of medical
neglect, where prison medical personnel consistently attribute prisoner complaints
to minor ailments, which are then treated with antibiotics, antacids, allergy medication,
antibacterial lotions, aspirin, and ibuprofen. As a result, many of the cancer diagnoses
reported to us were done only after the disease had progressed to the point that the
prisoner needed emergency hospital care. For instance, an individual diagnosed with
brain cancer wrote:
Many prisoners report that prison medical

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I’ve been asking medical for some type of CT scan for years because I was having headaches
everyday.They keep telling me it was my sinus but I knew it was more than that.They sent
me out for a CT scan and when I return, the medical staff here told me nothing was on my
CT scan and they did not see anything.The day after that I passed out and was rush to
Allegheny Hospital.They took another CT scan and found the cancer, it was at stage four
and went to my skull.66
Two prisoners shared a similar story regarding the late Rafael Rivera, a prisoner
who had been complaining of stomach pains for months only to be treated with
heartburn medication. By the time he was “carried to medical where x-rays were
finally taken [doctors found] a stomach cancer that was far along.”67 Official PADOC
records obtained via a Right-to-Know request confirm that Rafael Rivera died of
stomach cancer at SCI Fayette on June 15, 2012.68
In another report, Paul Kimble writes:
I have had surgery done at UPMC hospital and Westmoreland hospital one for a hernia and
another at the other hospital for polyps in my intestines, where they had to go through my
colon to have one cut out plus there is another one still there that will have to be cut out. I
was bleeding in my stool here in this prison. I was two pints low in blood, when I was finally
taken out to the hospital.69
Anthony Willingham similarly reported having surgery to remove a cancerous
growth from under his tongue, but being left with polyps that still need to be
removed:
Dr. Johnson assured me that all would be well again. He would remove the cancer in one
surgery and the polyps during the second. Be advised that the second surgery never happened.
The Department of Corrections and or the medical contractor (Wexford Medical) refused to
pay for the second surgery, stating that it was an elective procedure, not a life sustaining
procedure.70
David Ladlee reports that SCI Fayette prison officials have repeatedly denied a CT
scan to monitor two undiagnosed masses found in his lungs, despite having been
recommended by outside medical experts:
I am appealing Ms. Berrier’s findings of the initial review response. She states that, “Your
reports were reviewed for the past several years and there has been no change.”This is not
factually true.When I was at SCI Rockview in late 2009, a mass was found in 1 of my
lungs. In 2011, I was sent to Westmoreland Hospital from here for treatment of pneumonia.
While there, a CT scan was performed which showed not only the 1 mass but a 2nd mass
was found.The treating doctor at Westmoreland Hospital had ordered a series of follow up
CT scans to track the growth of these masses in my lungs.
There has been changes in the past several years and for Ms. Berrier to state that there has
not been changes is mind blowing.
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Ms. Berrier in the initial review had also
stated that the CT scan, “is not medically
necessary at this time.” ...You can see the
masses in my lungs by just looking. This is
why CT scans are necessary. I realize this
costs money but I am under your care,
custody and control.

At sick-call in early summer of this year I was told that a
CT scan was ordered.This past September I had written a
request inquiring about the CT scan in which a M. Hancock
responded that, “The CT scan in August was cancelled.”
Ms. Berrier in the initial review response had also stated that
the CT scan, “Is not medically necessary at this time.”
When is medically necessary, when I am dead? You can see
the masses in my lungs by just looking.This is why CT
scans are necessary. I realize this costs money but I am under
your care, custody and control.71

There are almost certainly more cases of cancer at
SCI Fayette than our preliminary investigation has
uncovered. Along with the cases of undiagnosed growths, many prisoners report
knowing of others who have cancer.The investigation received unconfirmed reports
of three guards at SCI Fayette who have been diagnosed with kidney cancer in recent
years, and another with throat cancer.72 It is possible that some prisoners who have
become ill with cancer while at SCI Fayette were subsequently transferred to other
prisons, complicating the process of counting people made ill at SCI Fayette. Prisoners
report that the severely ill are often transferred to SCI Laurel Highlands, a prisonhospital, once they become so sick that death appears imminent.

Other Symptoms and Illnesses
Some prisoners report experiencing repeated instances of kidney stones for the
first time while at SCI Fayette:
“A year ago I had surgery to have [kidney] stones removed, and once again in June 2013 (two
surgeries). Now here it is no more than three months later and I was sent to Uniontown Medical
Center for a CT scan and the pictures show I have more kidney stones than ever before.”73
Another prisoner writes: “[I]n my four years at Fayette, I had several bouts with
passing stones. I never had any trouble prior to going to Fayette, but I’ve had
trouble several times each year.”74 Two other prisoners reported having their
gallbladders removed, in one case due to gangrene.75
Several prisoners report extreme weight loss. In one instance, a prisoner reported
losing 54lbs in a month and a half.76 Another prisoner reported losing 40lbs over
a period of three months.77
Thyroid conditions were reported by 12% of prisoners (9/75). The range of
symptoms reported by these prisoners included irritation and swelling in the throat,
bloody noses, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, stomach pain, diarrhea, blurry vision, hair
loss, ear pain and infections, problems with memory and concentration, numbness,
muscle spasms, an inability to control arms and legs, and severe weight loss.

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Nicholas Morrissey, a prisoner diagnosed with Graves Disease, which is an
autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism, writes:
I am an inmate at SCI Fayette. I’ve been here since March 2008. About a year ago my health
went downhill. One day I woke up and it was difficult for me to walk and see.This continued
for a couple of days and my symptoms got worse. I started getting dizzy and I couldn’t keep my
balance and I started getting a numbing feeling in the left side of my body… I started getting
more symptoms including loss of function in my arms and legs,
blurry vision, confusion, memory loss, hair loss, laziness,
I can’t even control my body anymore… My life
diarrhea, tingling sensations in my face, arms, and legs, difficulty
walking, extreme weight loss, and non stop muscle spasms. I
has been completely changed in the last year…
can’t even control my body anymore… My life has been
I went from a athletic and healthy person to a
completely changed in the last year… I went from a athletic
and healthy person to a frail sickly man who can barely walk…
frail sickly man who can barely walk…
There are dozens of other inmates who have just recently come
down with the same thyroid condition I have…78
Another prisoner reports being told that there is no treatment for hyperthyroidism:
From March 2012 until June 2012 the medical staff here at SCI Fayette gave me a
bloodtest at least 10 to 15 times. In April 2012 as a result of the bloodwork I was told that
I have hyperthyroidism.The doctor also told me that there isn’t any treatment for
hyperthyroidism… that they can only treat hypothyroidism. Finally, I found a medical
dictionary that states that there is two types of medication for hyperthyroidism.79

Medical Care at SCI-Fayette
Prison medical care in Pennsylvania is notorious. Healthcare services in Pennsylvania
prisons are sub-contracted to for-profit companies, which have an incentive to
keep healthcare costs as low as possible. A recent report on privatized healthcare
in PADOC prisons by the CLEAR coalition and SEIU Healthcare explains,
“[C]ompanies cut costs by creating obstacles to care, hiring too few staff,
employing inexperienced staff, and skimping on medication.”80
These problems are borne out in our survey. Prisoners are required to pay $5 for
every sick call, a significant expense for a prisoner making prison wages or receiving
minimal support, if any, from a family member. One prisoner who has had chronic
headaches and respiratory problems reported never making a sick call in his two
and a half years at SCI-Fayette because, “they charge too much for sick call and
don’t do nothing for symptoms.”81
Those who do attempt to get care are often dismissed: “I went to medical for an
emergency sick call one morning because my vision was so blurry that I could
barely see and was harassed and deterred from seeking treatment by the RN,”
reports one prisoner.82 The cases of cancer mentioned above in which prisoners
were denied evaluation until the cancer was life-threatening are further evidence
of the dangerous level of neglect exhibited by medical staff.
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One of the prisoners with ulcerative colitis was prescribed a regimen of steroids by
a doctor outside of the prison, which was repeatedly administered incorrectly by
the prison: “The medical department failed to adhere to their instructions and
abruptly stopped the medication. This caused a flare up of my ulcerative colitis
and I had severe abdominal pains and rectal bleeding again.”83

“Shockingly, nursing staff, and almost with
every inmate who is admitted into the
infirmary, accuse those inmates of ‘faking it.’”

Many prisoners report that medical staff display
hostility toward those seeking care. One prisoner
wrote: “Shockingly, nursing staff, and almost with
every inmate who is admitted into the infirmary,
accuse those inmates of ‘faking it.’ I’ve seen guys
literally vomiting, and nursing staff will say, ‘oh he’s
just faking it.’ My jaw has dropped open from shock
so many times.”84 Another prisoner wrote:

I had some sort of seizure one day and I went to medical, when the nurse came in I can see
that the nurse was highly upset with my presence and slammed my file down and began to
punch the desk. He then began to tell me “Man up” and to tell me I had AIDS from getting
fucked in my ass and making fun of me. I don’t have AIDS, he just wanted to make fun of
me instead of treating me.85
Darin Hauman wrote to us about the late Greg Yarbonet, who died of brain cancer
in 201186:
In his last few weeks of life certain nursing staff deliberately induced dehydration by simply
refusing to assist him in drinking water. No hydration by way of intravenously either.With
healthy humans it takes a short time being dehydrated for organs to be begin shutting down.
Regarding Greg, I would have to sneak into his ward area, I would have to dip my finger into
water to moisten his lips as they were “glued” shut, then would have to drip a few drops of
water onto his tongue just so he could use a straw to get a few sips of water. Of all things I was
yelled at numerous times for doing this.This pisses me off each time I think of this.To deny a
man a drink of water speaks volumes as to the ideology of this particular nursing staff.87
Paul Kimble related an exchange with medical staff that underlines the apparent
lack of empathy and professional ethics at the prison: “Doctor told me, during last
physical, when asked if the lack of treatment meant that I would be left to die,
‘You said it, not me.’”88
The only recourse for prisoners in such situations is to engage in a protracted
grievance process that is designed to reject prisoner complaints and limit PADOC
liability for unlawful conduct. All of the prisoners in the survey who reported filing
grievances about medical care or environmental conditions at the prison had their
grievances dismissed. This is consistent with official PADOC statistics demonstrating
that in recent years more than 98% of prisoner grievances are denied on one basis
or another.89
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Background on SCI-Fayette
SCI Fayette was designed to replace the maximum security state prison in
Pittsburgh.90 At the time, however, Pennsylvania’s prison population was growing
rapidly under increasingly harsh sentencing for nonviolent offenders, and SCI
Pittsburgh was re-opened shortly after the new prison began operation.91 State
Representative Bill DeWeese, later convicted on corruption charges, pushed hard
to bring the new prison to Fayette County, hailing it as an important form of
economic development for the poorest county in the state.92
In early 2000, MCC sold 237 acres of its 1,357-acre property to the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for the purpose of building SCI Fayette.93
According to the construction manager for the project, the decision to place the
prison on top of a mined-out parcel of land with a legacy of coal waste dumping,
and an operational coal ash dump nearby was “based on cost, scheduling and
availability.”94 The degree to which coal waste from the earlier Labelle Processing
Plant was dumped on this land is unclear. What is clear is that the prison was built
on top of a former coal mine, and it is directly adjacent to MCC’s coal ash dump.95
Indeed, the western slope supporting Slurry Pond 3 looms over the prison, which
is significantly lower in elevation, presenting a potential disaster should the dump
lose structural integrity.
The prison was built between 2001 and 2003, and at 110 percent of its capacity,
currently holds 2,021 prisoners.96 The total cost to build was around $119,000,000.97
Prisoners report that parts of the prison are slowly sinking into the ground, likely
due to subsidence caused by earlier mining at the site.98 As part of the design, it was
decided to use boilers that burn coal waste to provide steam and hot water to the
prison.99 The construction and management of the steam system was contracted out
to Fayette Thermal, with the boilers being placed about a quarter mile from the
prison.100 The resulting coal ash from the Fayette Thermal plant is one of several
sources that are permitted for disposal on MCC’s remaining acreage.101
The related steam and water systems for the prison have broken down several
times, according to prisoners, with periods without running water lasting up to
a week.102 In 2010, the pipes for the entire steam and hot water system were dug
up and replaced, under a $7,025,000 contract.103 In a testimonial posted to the
contractor’s website, the Facility Maintenance Manager for SCI Fayette expressed
gratitude for “several emergency repairs,” which were needed “to keep the poor
system we have operating over the last 2+ years.”104 According to the contractor’s
Technical Proposal, these emergency repairs were on a continuous basis from 2004
to 2010.105 The new pipes were hung off the sides of the prison buildings, perhaps
to avoid corrosion of the pipes caused by coal waste in the surrounding soil.106

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Signs of Pollution at SCI-Fayette
black clouds of debris blowing off the dump
site; black dust collecting in the prison yard,
on window sills, and on freshly fallen snow;
and black and gray dust building up around
the vents inside prison cells.

A majority of prisoners in the survey reported visible
signs of pollution in and around the prison. Almost all
of their reports are the same: black clouds of debris
blowing off the dump site; black dust collecting in the
prison yard, on window sills, and on freshly fallen
snow; and black and gray dust building up around the
vents inside prison cells.These reports match descriptions
provided by LaBelle residents of pollution blowing off
the site and blanketing the town with black dust. For
instance, prisoner Barry Alton reports:

From our yard we can see the dump trucks going up the road to dump the Fly Ash — Loads
not covered — causing dust clouds even prior to dumping. Over the years we’d be outside and
dust clouds would blow back towards the prison — couple times covered entire yards.This was
not just from dumping but from moving piles of ash around area to level it out.107
Joseph Frankenberry writes:
It seemed always that visible clouds of dust in the outdoor air existed on a daily basis and
tables in the yards always had a blanket of dust as inmates would carry tissue to wipe the
tables daily to play cards…108
Another prisoner writes:
I went to the eye doctor on Tuesday… The entire windshield of the van was covered in Coal
Ash.The officers had to stop the van and wipe the windshield off with paper towels because
the Coal Ash would not come off with the windshield fluid and windshield wiper blades.109
“There is black dust all over the walls on F, H. G. and E Block. There is always a
chemical odor in the air. It is real bad by the staff parking lot next to the yard,”
writes one prisoner.110 Another adds that there is “black dust in our cells.You clean
it and about an hour later the dust is back. The black dust collects on cloth that
inmates cover their vents with[.]”111 Another prisoner reports that the “ventilation
system is always caked with thick dust.”112
Prisoners are nearly unanimous in reporting signs of water pollution. They report
that the water often smells and tastes of sulfur. Others report that the water is
frequently discolored. Michael McCole writes “I put a rag over showerhead and
white rag turns to brown…”113
Marcus Santos explains that the water gave him heartburn every time he drank it.
As a consequence, he refrained from drinking water as much as possible. When
Marcus arrived at SCI Smithfield he took a tiny sip of water. He waited 5–10
minutes for the onset of heartburn, and when it did not occur, he tried some more

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water. When the heartburn failed to materialize, Marcus said he drank and drank
and drank. Marcus had been depriving himself of water at SCI Fayette due to the
heartburn, and he had lost a considerable amount of weight as well. Marcus said,
“When I first got here [to SCI Smithfield] I was thirsty.”114
Several prisoners write about instances when the water was shut off for days at a
time, with the most recently reported instance occurring in February 2014.115 One
prisoner reports:
The plumbing or water system here is the worse.The drains back up because of the way they
were installed.The pipes trap air and back up… Until yesterday we didn’t have no hot
water. It was off for almost a week, and the usually cloudy water was brown. It was so bad
that it literally made my t-shirt brown while I washed it out.116
Christian Martinson reports:
Not only do I have experience with brown, stinking water, but also times where the prisoners
had to go on lockdown without working water. Bottled water had to be shipped in and the
toilets flushed manually.Then they relocated the water pipes to an elevated level against the
walls of the blocks…117
Another prisoner writes, “2006 to 2012 [underground] pipes kept breaking until
above pipes were hung on side of blocks and building.”118 These reports are
verified by looking at publicly available contracts for repairs and replacement of
the plumbing at SCI Fayette.119
At this time, our investigation has not been able to confirm that the water at SCI
Fayette is a source of coal waste or coal ash contamination in the prison. The
prison receives water from a local water authority, which has frequently been cited
for water quality violations in recent years, likely related to wastes from natural gas
drilling in the area.120 However, it appears that the water intake for the area is upriver from SCI Fayette and the nearby coal ash dump, and is unlikely to be directly
affected by pollution at these sites.121
It is possible that subsidence, poor construction, and high levels of coal waste in the
area contributed to corrosion and breaking of the plumbing system at SCI Fayette,
and may have opened the pipes up to leachate from rain and snowmelt draining
through the surrounding coal waste and soil.122 This could explain why the
plumbing system at the prison was in need of constant repair and was ultimately
pulled out of the ground and elevated onto the walls of the buildings. Several
prisoners also report a connection between rain and snowmelt, and times when
the water is particularly discolored and bad smelling.

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LEGAL FRAMEWORK
CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT UNDER THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
Conditions of Confinement
While “the Constitution does not mandate comfortable prisons,”123 and conditions
may be “restrictive and even harsh,”124 conditions that are inhumane are impermissible
under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.125
When the government deprives an individual of his or her liberty via incarceration it
possesses a corresponding duty to provide for that person’s basic human needs,
including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and safety.126 However, a prisoner
claiming unconstitutional conditions of confinement must prove both an objective
and a subjective element, before a court will enforce or protect these rights.127
The objective element requires that an injury be “sufficiently serious,”128 resulting
in the deprivation of a single, identifiable human need such as health, safety, food,
warmth or exercise.129 A condition that does not meet the objective requirement
by itself may be considered in combination with other conditions if these produce
a “mutually reinforcing effect” that causes deprivation of a single, identifiable
human need.130 Being exposed to a substantial risk of harm may state a claim
under the Constitution as well, as a prisoner does not “need to await a tragic
event” in order to be granted relief from a court, as “the Eighth Amendment
protects against future harm.”131
The subjective element, derived from the principle that “only the unnecessary and
wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment,”132 requires that a
plaintiff demonstrate that a defendant possessed a “sufficiently culpable state of
mind.”133 In cases involving prison conditions the culpable state of mind is one
of deliberate indifference to prisoner health or safety,134 as occurs when a prison
official knows that prisoners face “a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards
that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.”135
Under this standard, an injury to a prisoner’s health caused by exposure to
environmentally toxic living conditions such as those present at SCI Fayette meets
the objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment claim, provided that the harm
is “sufficiently serious.” Chronic skin disorders, problems with liver and kidney
functioning, asthma attacks and respiratory ailments, and cancer are all sufficiently
serious. If the coal refuse and ash pollution surrounding SCI Fayette can be proven
to a reasonable scientific certainty to be the cause of an individual’s ill health, the
objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment claim for exposure to environ mentally toxic living conditions will be met.
If a body of evidence can be developed showing that any prisoner at SCI Fayette is
being exposed to a substantial risk of serious harm based on the possibility that he
will develop a “sufficiently serious” health problem, the state will be constitutionally

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prohibited from confining prisoners at SCI Fayette. A class action suit on this scale
requires substantial scientific expertise, including studies by epidemiologists and
environmental toxicologists. Based on the evidence gathered to date, and the known
harmful health effects of coal ash and other coal refuse, there is a sound basis for
seeking financial and scientific resources that will enable prisoners and their advocates to
develop evidence of the potential and actual harms imposed on them.
The subjective element of an Eighth Amendment claim requires proof that officials
had knowledge of the risks to prisoners’ health at SCI Fayette, and yet failed to take
reasonable measures to eliminate those risks. PADOC officials’ awareness that SCI
Fayette was built on and around a toxic dump would demonstrate actual knowledge
of a risk of adverse health consequences from imprisoning people at the site.
Aggregated medical records may also show patterns of health problems consistent
with exposure to environmentally toxic living conditions, establishing that PADOC
officials knew or should have known that prisoners were being harmed by these
toxins. Additionally, prisoner grievances and reports such as this one will also create a
record of actual knowledge of the harms imposed upon prisoners at SCI Fayette.
At this stage it is uncertain what, if any, measures have been taken by PADOC
officials to mitigate the existing harms at SCI Fayette, but it does not appear that
any measures have been taken to identify or address the problem. If the harms are
of such a magnitude that prisoners cannot be held at SCI Fayette without imposing
a substantial risk of serious harm, any measure short of closing the prison will be
unreasonable. Thus, if prison officials fail to take any actions to remedy the harms
imposed on a prisoner or a group of prisoners, or fail to take those actions that are
necessary to end them, such as closing the prison, the subjective element of an
Eighth Amendment claim will be met.

Medical Care
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the Eighth Amendment is based on “broad
and idealistic concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency,”136
that consequently forbids punishments that “involve the unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain.”137 These premises “establish the government’s obligation to
provide medical care for those whom it is punishing by incarceration,” since a
prisoner “must rely on prison authorities to treat his medical needs,” and failure
to do so “may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death.”138
In order to prevail on a claim of unconstitutional medical or mental health care,
plaintiffs must prove that prison officials acted with “[d]eliberate indifference to
serious medical needs of prisoners,” causing “unnecessary and wanton infliction of
pain.”139 The Court recognized that medical and non-medical staff may be liable
under this cause of action, and that deliberate indifference may result from denial or
delay of a prisoner’s medical care, or intentional interference with prescribed
treatment.140 Deliberate indifference requires a higher standard of subjective intent
than negligence, as “an inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care cannot

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be said to constitute an unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain[.]”141 The Third
Circuit Court of Appeals has elaborated on this standard by observing that deliberate
indifference is found when a doctor intentionally inflicts pain on a prisoner, when
reasonable requests for medical treatment are denied causing “undue suffering or the
threat of tangible residual injury,” and “where knowledge of the need for medical
care is accompanied by the intentional refusal to provide that care.”142
Those prisoners suffering health problems as a consequence of their exposure to
environmentally toxic living conditions are entitled to medical care. If prison officials
act with deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical need at SCI Fayette by
denying or delaying necessary treatment, or by intentionally inflicting harm, those
officials are liable under the Eighth Amendment. If it can be proven that medical staff
and prison officials are aware that a prisoner’s illness is caused or exacerbated by his
exposure to environmentally toxic conditions at SCI Fayette, failure to transfer the
prisoner to another prison for medical reasons would constitute either denial of
necessary treatment or intentional infliction of pain, or both.

CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS
As previously mentioned, the inherent limitations of the survey make it impossible
to empirically show that prisoners at SCI-Fayette are getting sick at an unusually
high rate or that these illnesses are caused by pollution from the dump. However,
we believe that the patterns that emerged in our survey are alarming and suggest a
causal relationship between coal waste and prisoner health problems. The prevalence
of respiratory problems is particularly telling because they are the most common
symptoms associated with exposure to airborne toxins.There is also a consistent pattern
of prisoners developing symptoms that they never before experienced shortly after
entering SCI-Fayette, another telltale sign of exposure environmental toxins.
At this stage, it is clear that the investigation into how
prisoner’s health is being harmed by exposure to toxic
Prisoners retain constitutional and human
coal refuse must continue and expand. Prisoners retain
rights to clean air and clean water.
constitutional and human rights to clean air and clean
water. We will conclude with a concise list of how
individuals and organizations representing different constituencies can come
together to address the urgent health crisis at SCI Fayette and the town of LaBelle.
Prisoners, their family members and supporters: Prisoners at
SCI Fayette should continue to provide detailed information regarding health
symptoms experienced at SCI Fayette, efforts to obtain medical treatment, and
evidence of pollution at the prison. For those no longer at SCI Fayette, please
provide information of ongoing health problems that arose while at SCI Fayette, as
well as how your health may have improved since leaving the prison. Family
members and supporters of prisoners can help by contacting the Human Rights
Coalition to become involved in advocacy and organizing efforts in support of the
health and human rights of prisoners at SCI Fayette and throughout the PADOC.

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LaBelle residents, prison staff, and surrounding communities:
This report focuses primarily on the health conditions and treatment of prisoners
at SCI Fayette, but the residents of LaBelle and prison staff are also exposed to
pollutants from this site, and are reporting high rates of respiratory problems and
cancer. Those who live and work in the area around the dump have a right to a
clean environment, and have a common cause with those who are locked up at SCI
Fayette. We know from our investigation that residents of LaBelle are fighting for
the dump to be closed and for compensation for harms done to them. We would
like to work in solidarity with residents and form strategies for protecting the
health, safety, and human rights of all people living and working near this dump.
Environmental Organizations: Several environmental organizations have
been supporting residents of LaBelle and advocating for tighter regulations or even
closure of the site. We call on these and other groups to include prisoners in their
understanding of who is impacted by this dump and to see the strategic importance
of linking the grievances of everyone impacted by the site. More broadly we call on
environmental groups to see prisoners everywhere as Environmental Justice (EJ)
Communities. EJ communities are low-income communities and communities of
color which are more likely to be targeted by polluting industries because of
institutional forms of oppression and a lack of political and economic power.
The situation in LaBelle and SCI Fayette also highlights the need for more forceful
federal regulation of coal ash, which has been a major focus of environmental NGOs
for years. The inhumane situation of people held captive in close proximity to this
dump provides a unique opportunity to prove a direct relationship between exposure
to coal ash and adverse health impacts. The results of the kind of epidemiological
studies we hope to undertake could bolster the demands of these national groups for
coal ash to be strictly regulated by the EPA.
Medical Institutions and Organizations: Medical professionals are
needed to advocate for and carry out epidemiological studies of the prisoner
population at SCI Fayette and the town of LaBelle. Professional organizations
should issue statements of support and assist in mobilizing professional and
financial resources for investigative, advocacy, and legal efforts.
Legal Community: Lawyers, law clinics, law students, paralegals, and jailhouse
lawyers should join with the ALC to assist in investigation and potential legal
action in support of prisoners at SCI Fayette. Additionally, those prisoners in
urgent need of medical care, especially diagnostic treatment and surgery to assess
pre-cancerous and cancerous growths, need legal support. A lawyers’ monitoring
committee should be established in order to organize a network of attorneys to
do pro bono work on individual cases that require immediate attention.
Principled and Strategic Cooperation: All of the above constituencies
must work together in an integrated way that prioritizes the health and the rights
of prisoners, who are the most impacted and the most vulnerable.
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NOTES
1
2
3
4

5
6

7

8

22

Letter from prisoner (Feb. 5, 2014) (on file).
Citizens Coal Council v. Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc. [CCC v. MCC], Complaint ¶ 1, Civil Action No. 13-896 (2013).
Response to Public Comments re: MCC Operating Permit SOOP-26-00057, Bureau of Air Quality, PA DEP to Abolitionist
Law Center (Jun. 11, 2014) (on file).
David Templeton, A Past, But No Future: Suspension Bridge Coming Down, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, February 29, 2014, at
http://www.post-gazette.com/local/washington/2004/02/29/A-past-but-no-future-Suspension-bridge-comingdown/stories/200402290145.
Id.
Dennis Noll, FGD as an Alkaline Amendment for Coal Waste, in PROCEEDINGS OF FLUE GAS DESULFURIZATION (FGD) BPRODUCTS AT COAL MINES AND RESPONSES TO THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES FINAL REPORT “MANAGING COAL
COMBUSTION RESIDUES IN MINES”: A TECHNICAL INTERACTIVE FORUM 33, 33 (Kimery C.Vories & Anna K. Harrington eds.,
2006).
Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 1693: 222; Estate of Interstate Thermal Energy Conversion Corporation & Matt
Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 3 May 1996; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown, PA; Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 1733:
227; Estate of Labelle Processing Company & Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 12 July 1996; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown,
PA.
Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 1816: 91; Contractual Consent of Landowner, Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 1
October 1996; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown, PA.

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9

Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 3116: 1637; Contractual Consent of Landowner for a General Permit, Matt
Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 3 March 2010; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown, PA. [Labelle Refuse Site set at 506.7 acres].

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10

Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 2476: 314; Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc. & Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
Department of General Services, 9 February 2000; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown, PA. [Transfer of 237.82 acres].

11
12
13
14

Supra note 6 at 33-35.
Id.
Id.
BARBARA GOTTLIEB ET AL., COAL ASH: THE TOXIC THREAT TO OUR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: A REPORT FROM
PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND EARTHJUSTICE 9 (2010).
Center for Coalfield Justice, Comments Regarding CMAP #26970702 and NPDES #PA-0215112 for Matt Canestrale
Contracting, Inc. Labelle Site, Luzerne Township, Fayette County, ¶¶ 14-45 (Apr. 19, 2013).
25 Pa. Code § 123.2; 25 Pa. Code § 123.1(a)(9)
Interviews with residents and prisoners.
Supra note 15 at ¶¶ 18-23.
Citizens Coal Council, Notice of Violations and Notice of Intent to Sue Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 5-12 (Mar. 13,
2013); EVAN HANSEN ET AL., WATER POLLUTION AT LABELLE, FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA (2014).
EVAN HANSEN ET AL., WATER POLLUTION AT LABELLE, FAYETTE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA (2014).
Id.
Id. at 19-21.
ALAN H. LOCKWOOD & LISA EVANS, ASH IN LUNGS: HOW BREATHING COAL ASH IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH 14 (2014).
Citizens Coal Council, Notice of Violations and Notice of Intent to Sue Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc., 13 (Mar. 13, 2013).
David Templeton & Don Hopey, Large Loads in LaBelle, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, December 16, 2010, at http://www.postgazette.com/news/health/2010/12/16/Large-loads-in-La-Belle/stories/201012160387.
David Templeton & Don Hopey, “Clusters” of Death, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, December 13, 2010, at http://www.postgazette.com/news/health/2010/12/13/Clusters-of-death/stories/201012130261.
Supra note 25.
Notice of Operating Permit Disposition for SOOP-26-00057, Bureau of Air Quality, PA DEP to Abolitionist Law Center (Jul.
14, 2014) (on file).

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Don Hopey, FirstEnergy to Ship Little Blue Run Coal Waste to Fayette County, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, January 25, 2013,
at http://www.post-gazette.com/local/west/2013/01/25/FirstEnergy-to-ship-Little-Blue-Run-coal-wastes-to-FayetteCounty/stories/201301250140; Press Release, FirstEnergy Corp., FirstEnergy Announces Plans to Beneficially Use Scrubber
Material from Bruce Mansfield Plant in Pennsylvania Mine Reclamation Project (Jan. 22, 2013) (available at:
https://www.firstenergycorp.com/content/fecorp/newsroom/news_releases/firstenergy-announces-plans-to-beneficially-usescrubber-materia.html).
Id.
US Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District, Public Notice No. 2014-405 (2014),
http://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Portals/72/docs/regulatory/2014%20Public%20Notices/PN%2014-27.pdf.
Intent to Issue Plan Approvals and Intent to Issue or Amend Operating Permits under the Air Pollution Control Act, 2600500C: Alpha PA Coal Terminal, LLC, 44 Pa.B 791, 806 (February 8, 2014); Intent to Issue Plan Approvals and Intent to Issue
or Amend Operating Permits under the Air Pollution Control Act, 26-00500C, 44 Pa.B 2519, 2526 (April 26, 2014).
Timothy Puko, Alpha Natural Resources to Pay Record $227.5M in Water Pollution Settlement, TRIBLIVE, March 6, 2014, at
http://triblive.com/business/headlines/5710782-74/alpha-coal-federal.
BARBARA GOTTLIEB ET AL., COAL ASH: THE TOXIC THREAT TO OUR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: A REPORT FROM
PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND EARTHJUSTICE 8 (2010); Physicians for Social Responsibility, 840 Health
Professionals Agree: Coal Ash is Hazardous to Your Health, Apr. 26, 2012, http://www.psr.org/news-events/press-releases/840health-professionals-agree-coal-ash-hazardous-your-health.html.
BARBARA GOTTLIEB ET AL., COAL ASH: THE TOXIC THREAT TO OUR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: A REPORT FROM
PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND EARTHJUSTICE 1-5 (2010).
Id. at vii.
Coal Combustion Residuals — Proposed Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 35,128 (Proposed Jun. 21, 2010).
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Coal Ash Beneficial Use,
http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/bureau_of_mining_programs/20865/coal_ash_beneficial_use/115
0024#Regulation%20and%20Policy (last visited Jul. 31, 2014).
CLEAN AIR TASK FORCE, IMPACTS ON WATER QUALITY FROM PLACEMENT OF COAL COMBUSTION WASTE IN PENNSYLVANIA
COAL MINES 39 (2007).
ALAN H. LOCKWOOD & LISA EVANS, ASH IN LUNGS: HOW BREATHING COAL ASH IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH (2014).
BARBARA GOTTLIEB ET AL., COAL ASH: THE TOXIC THREAT TO OUR HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT: A REPORT FROM
PHYSICIANS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND EARTHJUSTICE 8 (2010).
Letter from Marcus Santos (Apr. 15, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Joshua Turner (Feb. 28, 2014) (on file).
See supra, note 2.
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 9, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Marcus Santos (Apr.15, 2013) (on file).
Interview with Marcus Santos (Mar. 3, 2014).
Letter from prisoner (Jul. 2, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 20, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Lance Rucker (Nov. 5, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 22, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Michael Dean (Dec. 6, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Anthony Willingham (Apr. 17, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Marcus Santos (Oct. 27, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Roy Davis (Jan. 23, 2014) (on file).
Interview with Marcus Santos (Mar. 3, 2014).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 22, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jun. 27, 2014) (on file).
Letter from David Ladlee (Jun. 03, 2014) (on file); Letter from prisoner (Jun. 18, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Michael McCole (Feb. 4, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Roy Davis (Jan. 23, 2014) (on file).
Ananthakrishnan, A. N., McGinley, E. L., Binion, D. G. and Saeian, K. (2011), Ambient air pollution correlates with hospitalizations for
inflammatory bowel disease: An ecological analysis. INFLAMM BOWEL DIS, 17: 1138-1145. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21455.
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 26, 2013) (on file).
PADOC, INMATE DEATHS REGISTER (2010-2014) (on file).
PADOC, INMATE DEATHS REGISTER (2010-2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jul. 23, 2013) (on file).

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Letters from prisoners (Apr. and Jun. 2013) (on file).
PADOC, INMATE DEATHS REGISTER (2012) (on file).
Letter from Paul Kimble (Mar. 12, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Anthony Willingham (Apr. 17, 2014) (on file).
David Ladlee, APPEAL TO FACILITY MANAGER OF GRIEVANCE #429131 (Oct. 7, 2012) (on file).
Interview.
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 1, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Michael Dean (Oct. 15, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Paul Kimble (May 16, 2014) (on file); Letter from prisoner (Dec. 13, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jul. 2, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 26, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jun. 13, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jul. 15, 2014) (on file).
CLEAR COALITION & SEIU HEALTHCARE, DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS HEALTHCARE: PUBLIC HEALTH AND PUBLIC
SAFETY IN THE COMMONWEALTH’S PRISONS (2012).
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 10, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Dec. 20, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 1, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Apr. 10, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jun. 13, 2014) (on file).
PADOC, INMATE DEATHS REGISTER (2011) (on file).
Letter from Darin Hauman (Apr. 15, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Paul Kimble (May 16, 2014) (on file).
PADOC, GRIEVANCE STATISTICS FROM 2008-2011 (obtained via Right-to-Know request, and indicating that at least 98% of
grievances are not resolved in favor of prisoners) (on file).
See Cindi Lash, Fayette Residents Hope Prison Holds Promise Of Better Future, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, July 31, 2003, at
http://old.post-gazette.com/localnews/20030731prisonr5.asp
PADOC, Pennsylvania State Prison Officials To Reopen SCI Pittsburgh, January 3, 2007.
Karen Langley & Laura Olson, DeWeese Guilty of Five Felonies, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, February 7, 2012, at
http://www.post-gazette.com/local/washington/2012/02/07/DeWeese-guilty-of-five-felonies/stories/201202070279;
DeWeese: Fayette Co. Has Prison Locked Up, OBSERVER-REPORTER, August 26, 1999, at A1.
Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Deed Book 2476: 314; Matt Canestrale Contracting, Inc. & Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
Department of General Services, 9 February 2000; Recorder of Deeds, Uniontown, PA.
PJ Dick, Project: State Correctional Institute — Fayette,
http://www.pjdick.com/jobs.nsf/%28web%29/373EF2215B65CD76852569360051D450/$File/SCI+Fayette+Project+Sheet.
pdf (last visited July 30, 2014).
See Pennsylvania Mine Map Atlas, http://www.minemaps.psu.edu (last visited July 30, 2014).
PADOC, MONTHLY POPULATION REPORT — JUNE 2014.
Supra note 85.
Letter from prisoner (Jun. 11, 2014) (on file).
Steve Spaulding, New prison receives high-efficiency boiler backup, CONTRACTOR, Aug. 2003, at 7.
Id.
Response to Public Comments re: MCC Operating Permit SOOP-26-00057, Bureau of Air Quality, PA DEP to Abolitionist
Law Center (Jun. 11, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 2, 2013) (on file).
Wayne Crouse, Inc., SCI Fayette — Replace Heating/Cooling Distribution Center, http://www.waynecrouse.com/experience2/correctional-facilities (last visited July 30, 2014).
Wayne Crouse, Inc., Testimonials, http://www.waynecrouse.com/testimonials (last visited July 30, 2014).
Wayne Crouse, Inc., TECHNICAL PROPOSAL FOR: SCI FAYETTE — REPLACE HEATING/COOLING DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM,
Project No. DGS 570-30.2 — HVAC Construction (May 4, 2010) (“Fred’s services will be complimented by his past
experience at SCI Fayette where he had estimated and project managed the SCI-Fayette Emergency Replacement of
Deteriorating Underground Hot Water Piping in 2004, and secured a Maintenance Agreement to perform emergency repairs
on the High Temperature Hot Water System with the DGS to this date.”).
Id. (“WCI will be replacing the existing underground High Temperature Hot Water piping system with a new above ground
High Temperature Hot Water piping system that will be routed on rooftops and on steel stanchion supports.”).

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Letter from Barry Alton (Jun. 4, 2014) (on file).
Letter from Joseph Frankenberry (Jun. 18, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 2, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Sep. 28, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 1, 2013) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Nov. 21, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Michael McCole (May 19, 2014) (on file).
Interview with Marcus Santos (Mar. 3, 2014).
Letter from prisoner (Feb. 5, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Oct. 2, 2013) (on file).
Letter from Christian Martinson (Jul. 1, 2014) (on file).
Letter from prisoner (Jun. 9, 2014) (on file).
Supra notes 103, 104, 105.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Notices of Violation. Issued to Tri-County Water Authority, Jan. 31,
2014, Nov. 8, 2013, Sept 28, 2013, Sept 11, 2013, Nov. 14, 2014, May 5, 2009, Feb. 5, 2009, Nov. 21, 2008, Oct. 30, 2008, Aug.
12, 2008, Mar. 17, 2008,
121 Map of Tri-County Water Authority Facilities. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection files
122 See, e.g., Angela Fiandaca, Corrosion at Root of Gannett Pipe Break, THE MAINE CAMPUS, March 31, 2003, at
http://mainecampus.com/2003/03/31/corrosion-at-root-of-gannett-pipe-break (“The water pipe was said to be so corroded
because where the pipes lay underground in front of Gannett Hall is where a landfill was located. Within this landfill, workers
found trash such as cans, bottles and newspapers, surrounded by coal ash.”).
123 Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 349 (1981),
124 Id. at 347.
125 Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994).
126 Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31-32 (1993).
127 Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
128 Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991).
129 Id. at 304.
130 Id.
131 Helling, 509 U.S. at 33.
132 Wilson, 501 U.S. at 297.
133 Id.
134 Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834.
135 Id. at 847.
136 Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102 (1976) (internal citation omitted).
137 Id. at 103 (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976)).
138 Estelle, 429 U.S. at 103 (internal quotation marks omitted).
139 Id, at 104 (internal quotation marks omitted).
140 Id. at 104-05.
141 Id. at 105.
142 Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 235 (3d Cir. 2004) (internal citations and punctuation marks omitted).

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P.O. Box 8654
Pittsburgh, PA 15221

5129 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224

info@abolitionistlawcenter.org
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hrcfedup@gmail.com
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