By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
After studying environmental contamination in Minden for the last five years, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has confirmed the presence of PCBs in Minden and provided a plan to clean up the Shaffer Equipment / Arbuckle Creek Area Superfund Site. Located just outside the town of Oak Hill in Fayette County, the EPA conducted three previous cleanup efforts since the 1970s over the same environmental concerns. None proved to be effective.
At issue are whether PCBs remain in the town’s soil. What are PCBs? According to the EPA, “polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a group of chemicals that contain 209 individual compounds (known as congeners) with varying harmful effects.” They are categorized as a “possible human carcinogen.” The federal government banned use of PCBs in 1979.
As shown in the EPA’s latest report, released this week, “Mismanagement of electrical transformers by the Shaffer Equipment Company resulted in the release of PCB-containing oils to the environment (in Minden).”
In order to clean up the site, the EPA proposes a $15.6 million plan containing four main elements—”removal of the impervious cap, excavation of contaminated soil above performance standards, offsite disposal, and backfilling as necessary.” The report states that this plan will keep PCBs from migrating to other areas.
Local citizens react to the plan
Dr. Ayne Amjad is a local physician with longstanding ties to the Minden community. Her father, the late Dr. Hassan Amjad, previously treated American veterans affected by Agent Orange. He also spent a great deal of his practice treating folks from Minden, whom he believed were afflicted with cancer due to exposure to PCBs. While she is now the Director of Correctional Health Care for West Virginia, she continued to be invested in public health in Minden.
Amjad offered this reaction to the latest plan from EPA. “From what I read of the EPA’s proposed remedial action plan, they are recommending alternative three, which will remove and replace all the soil under the cap around the Shaffer Equipment site. While I think this is their best recommendation, I also want to ensure that areas beyond the Shaffer site continue to be monitored.”
Local citizens agree that their concerns are not confined to the Shaffer site alone. The area is prone to flooding, and they believe PCB contamination has migrated throughout the low-lying area of Minden over the decades.
Steve Hayslette runs a local towing company and lives in Minden. “Complete site excavation,” he says, “is the best answer to prevent future spread from flooding in my opinion.”
Steve’s wife, Cindy Hayslette, appreciates the proposed plan, but she is not sure it goes far enough. “I would like to see the creek dredged out to contain flooding,” she says.
Dr. Ayne Amjad worked towards relocating Minden residents out of the area as a long-term solution to contamination in the past. She says, “I think the people of Minden would like the option of relocation. These issues in Minden have been ongoing since 1984. That’s 40 years of them fighting for environmental justice.”
Cindy Hayslette feels that relocation should be an option on the table, saying, “I’d like to see an immediate emergency offer to the homes that take on substantial water when we get flooding.” She concedes that not everyone would want to be relocated, but she thinks it should be offered to those who wish to do so.
All in all, Amjad is glad things are moving forward. “I’m thankful to everyone in Minden, their community, and the EPA for continuing to find a solution. And to recognize that nothing is final but a way forward.”
How to submit feedback on the plan to EPA
The public is invited to provide EPA with feedback on the proposed plan one of four ways.
One, attend a public meeting that will be held at 6pm on Tuesday, March 21st at the Minden Community Center/New Beginning Apostolic Church, 179 McKinney Road, Minden, WV 25879.
Two, Send a letter by April 12, 2023 to:
U.S. EPA Region 3
Attn: Aaron Mroz
Four Penn Center
1600 John F. Kennedy Boulevard (Mailcode: 3SD22)
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Three, email: email@example.com
Four, call 215-814-2008 to leave a message. Please speak slowly and clearly and include your name and phone number.
Stay tuned to The Real WV for further updates on this story as it develops.