Environmental group pushes coal yard to curb dust

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — An environmental group says it has test results about coal dust from a Norfolk Southern Terminal, and they’re concerned.

The Sierra Club says it has teamed up with residents in the Lambert’s Point, West Ghent and Larchmont neighborhoods. They say more than 90,000 pounds of coal dust was released into the environment and Elizabeth River last year, and More than 2 million pounds over the past 50 years.

Dust from five homes was tested by an Oregon-based company. Those results show between 20 and 70 percent of all dust around the Lambert’s Point Norfolk Southern Terminal is coal dust.

“This was taken from four window sills yesterday, two blocks down from here. So, our children, my wife, everyone in this neighborhood breaths this kind of stuff on a daily basis. We’ve been breathing it for 26 years,” said Steve BaggarIy, a Lambert’s Point resident. “I would hope the least Norfolk Southern can do would be to put some of this technology on the dumpers and what not to keep the coal down in the neighborhood.”

Solutions include putting covers on coal dumpers, chutes, conveyors and coal train cars. The Sierra Club says the technology exists, and the estimated cost to Norfolk Southern would be $50 million.

Joe Cook has been leading the charge. He calls that price a “drop in the bucket” to the Fortune 500 company’s annual profits.

“Coal dust presents a clear and present danger to human and environmental health, and a nuisance factor, contrary to the denial of some Norfolk Southern executives,” he said. “It contains arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals.”

Norfolk Southern officials say the issue was first brought up 20 years ago. Since then, they’ve implemented a dust suppression system to reduce the amounts. There’s also an air monitoring station to gauge the dust levels, which has shown to be far less than federal standards.

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