On a bridge on Highway 64 over Route 60 in White Sulphur Springs, activists dropped a banner targeting Governor Jim Justice during the PGA TOUR.
The banner read, “Hey Jim, where’s Minden’s Justice? No toxic sewer project!” The banner references a sewer infrastructure project in Minden, a small community contaminated with PCBs, located just outside of Oak Hill and the ACE Adventure Resort.
Decades ago, the Shaffer Equipment Company buried transformers and electrical equipment in the soil surrounding Minden, leading to the proliferation of PCBs. PCBs are known to cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine system, along with causing a variety ofother environmental and human health impacts. A series of EPA-validated lab results prove that PCB’s still contaminate the soil in Minden to this day. Many Minden residents are adamantly opposed to the project because of these concerns.
“Walking along the path of the sewer project I can name between 30 and 40 people that have died from cancer, currently fighting cancer or died from non-cancerous tumors,” said Annetta Coffman, whose home borders the sewer project. “If Jim Justice would come down to Minden, I would personally walk him along the path and show him where our people have suflered from PCBs.”
Justice had ordered the sewer project to halt in February while U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) scientists completed soil testing. When EPA testing showed the levels along the planned sewer line appeared not to pose a threat to human health, Justice lifted the ban, and work resumed. Justice had pledged to endorse Minden’s placement on the EPA’s National Priorities List of Superfund sites when the halt was ordered.
“I think that Justice has only gone along with WVDEP and EPA and they have done nothing but lie to us Minden residents,” said Susie Worley Jenkins, Minden resident. She continued, “From the very beginning of the planning stages, the agencies have been messing up. They didn’t even bother to do any kind of testing before they just pushed this project and its funding through Minden.”
Minden residents report 152 current and fonner residents of their neighborhoods have died of cancer since 2014. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists PCB as a probable human carcinogen, while an international cancer agency lists it as a carcinogen. Workers at the shuttered Shaffer’s Equipment Co. in Minden said they poured PCBs on the ground, sprayed it on roads throughout, placed it in nearby mines and stored it illegally. Residents have told federal, state and local officials that they live in terror of developing health problems related to PCB exposure.
Although no group took credit for the banner, a press release and picture of it were sent to The Register-Herald by Brandon Richardson, founder of Headwaters Defense. The deployment of the banner coincides with the PGA tournament at The Greenbrier resort, providing a chance for national media and out of state tourists to gain awareness of the plight of Minden residents at the hands of Governor Justice.
Headwaters Defense is a grassroots environmental justice organization dedicated to protecting the basic human rights of the people of Appalachia based in Fayette County.