And then his kids started having issues with asthma and he started having the same problems. He didn’t understand what the problem was until one day he walked out of his house after it had snowed and he noticed black speckles all over his yard.
That’s where the disagreement between Pringle and We Energies begins.
Thinking that the coal dust was coming from the coal trains that are about a quarter-mile away from his house, Pringle called We Energies employee Steve Perrigo about the problem. He told Pringle to put melted snow in a jug and he would pick it up. Pringle wasn’t sure if Perrigo would want to collect his own sample, he said.
“I even had a snow shovel ready and gave him the choice on collecting it from the jug or shovel it directly from my yard himself,” Pringle said.
We Energies spokesperson Amy Jahns said Pringle’s former home didn’t show a presence of coal dust on his property, and the utility denied that coal dust had any effect on the Pringles’ health.
“We tested the Pringle home numerous times and did not find any coal dust – inside or outside the home,” Jahns said. “We also tested at nearby public locations and did not find any evidence of coal dust. Although the snow sample provided to us by Mr. Pringle contained coal, we cannot verify or confirm where the snow was collected or the methods used to collect it. As no evidence of coal or coal dust has been found in the Pringle home, we dispute the doctor’s concluding statement about the probability of coal (dust) affecting Mrs. Pringle’s health.”
However, Racine County Eye has obtained a copy of a letter dated March 24, 2014 from We Energies to Pringle showing that they tested a snow melt sample he gave them from his property when he lived there. Test results showed that We Energies found 30 percent coal in the sample. Perrigo told Pringle during a phone conversation that the sample was raw coal dust coming from the coal trains.
Listen to the recording: We Energies employee tells Pringle about coal found in snow sample.
Pringle paid Environmental Initiatives in May 2014 and Aspen Consulting to do further testing on his home, which showed that coal-like particles were found inside his home. He also gave We Energies letters from his wife’s and child’s doctors explaining that the coal dust was probably the reason their symptoms were getting worse.
We Energies did ask Pringle to test the inside of his home through third-party testing, but he refused to have it done because when he called the firm We Energies wanted him to use, he found out that the company didn’t do residential testing and worked for We Energies, he said.
Pringle sold his home in October of 2014 and moved to Mount Pleasant. Since then he and his family’s asthma symptoms have improved.
He filed a lawsuit against We Energies last year claiming that having lived about two miles away from the plant and about a quarter-mile away from tracks used by coal trains was the reason he and his family got sick with asthma and other upper respiratory problems. Both We Energies and Pringle agreed in June to voluntarily dismiss the case, but it was dismissed without prejudice. That means Pringle can join in a future class action lawsuit if he chooses to with his former neighbors.