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Across Appalachia

EPA Sampling for PCB Contamination

By Meredith Abercrombie

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was sampling water and soil in Minden, W.Va., as of press time in early August. It is suspected that PCBs — man-made chlorine-based chemicals — from equipment and oil dumped at an old mine in Minden are contaminating soil and water and causing cancer among many community members.

Shaffer Equipment Company used the abandoned mine site in the 1960s to store equipment, such as transformers, that contained PCBs. In 1979, the EPA officially banned their use of PCBs, acknowledging that the toxic chemical can lead to cancer.

Citizens expressed concerns about the EPA’s current presence in Minden to the Register-Herald, alleging that previous visits have not resulted in any improvements. In the 80s and early ‘90s, the EPA attempted to clean up the mines multiple times, informing the town that the situation was resolved and there was no threat to residents’ health. After continued problems, the EPA sealed off the mine site in 1992.

But the high rates of cancer continue to be a problem. The Fayetteville Tribune reports that area residents believe one-third of their small community have been diagnosed with cancer.
Dr. Hassan Amjad, a physician in Minden, has been conducting research into the correlation between PCB contamination and the number of Minden residents diagnosed with cancer. In a press release by Headwaters Defense, an environmental justice organization, Amjad states, “The EPA is afraid to find their own mistakes.”

The EPA was collecting samples from 20 sites, but only one of those was from the predominately black community that is closest to the mine site, and one of the most at risk. “The fact that they are not sampling there indicates mal-intent on behalf of the EPA,” Amjad stated in the press release.

The EPA estimates that the results of the sampling will be ready by late summer. After that, there will be a public open house to discuss the results and answer questions.

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