MINDEN, WV – Disappointment. Hurt. Anger. All emotions felt by my small community in Minden, West Virginia when we met with the EPA on October 27-28. A community of 251 people where one third of the population has cancer or has succumbed to it in the past four years.
Our town began our fight against PCB contamination in the 1980s when a mining equipment site in the area dumped and stored the contaminants on its property, spreading into the creek bank and onto our properties.
We voiced our concerns after our small community was annexed, without a community vote, within the city limits in order to put in a $23 million sewage system. We became concerned about the property on the old Shaffer Equipment Mine, where the sewer system was going to be housed through. The old sewage plant failed due to what is believed to be a previous plant manager’s stealing over $70,000 in equipment and money. The board that oversaw these issues apparently did not “catch” any of this activity until the sewage plant failed and not one person was held accountable.
After four years of ignoring our outcries, the EPA returned in June 2017 to conduct additional testing for PCBs. Samples were taken along Arbuckle Creek, the old Shaffer Equipment site, as well as selected homeowner’s properties. Two personal properties tested above toxic level, at 1.2 parts per million and 1.3 ppm. Both properties are in a flood plain, with several homes between them.
The Arbuckle Creek results were 50 ppm and 6.2 ppm, 50 times over the safe level of 1 ppm.
Not one city, county or state official has reached out to Minden, although several of us have called, e-mailed and even reached out to their social media pages. However, a special council was appointed to the town of Fayetteville, West Virginia where a transformer containing PCB contaminants well below the clean-up level was found buried.
Due to statewide apathy towards us, federal health agencies have been prevented from performing an accurate health assessment and research that would prove a direct link between PCBs and the cancer deaths of hundreds in Minden.
The EPA returned in late October 2017 to reveal the results of their tests. The EPA offered a 10-minute presentation, then we were instructed to walk around to tables and gather information. Their malignant attitude towards us left us feeling disrespected and unimportant. We were told the EPA would return in two months to conduct additional testing. However, winters can be treacherous in West Virginia, where testing will be halted until spring. We feel that our socioeconomic status keeps us from receiving the relief we beg for. Minden houses one commercial business, a rafting company, which we also feel is one of the biggest factors in pushing the sewage system, as the city of Oak Hill will gain thousands of dollars in quarterly taxes from them.
For more information on our town and our fight, you can find us on Facebook at Minden PCB Oil.