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Minden residents march to bring attention to PCB legacy

June 8, 2019

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Thirty years after Minden residents marched to bring attention to the PCB contamination causing cancer in their community, members of Minden Community Action say more work must be done.

The Register-Herald reports , the group organized a Saturday march as a re-enactment of a 1989 march for the contaminated Fayette County community. The march is intended to draw attention to ongoing problems and also honor local residents who pushed the federal government to act.

Minden was contaminated after workers at the now-defunct Shaffer’s Equipment Co. dumped the carcinogenic industrial chemical PCB around the town. There have been three clean-up efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and none have fully removed the contamination. In May, the EPA announced that Shaffer’s would be added to the national priority list of Superfund sites, clearing the way for more studies and more federal money.

Minden Community Action member Annetta Coffman told the paper the march is “a very important stepping stone for Minden to show that even after 30 years, we haven’t given up on justice for our town and will continue to fight for what we deserve, which is to be relocated to a clean, safe environment.

“No one can assure us 100% that a fourth clean-up will be the final clean-up and that we can live safe, without worry of anyone else dying from cancer related to illnesses due to PCBs.”

Recently residents have complained that a sewer project is sickening them as contaminants in the soil become airborne during construction. They have drawn the support of Lois Gibbs, known as the “mother of the Superfund” for her work to force federal officials to recognize the deadly contamination in Love Canal, New York in the 1980s.

Gibbs has called the sewer project “criminal.”

Other supporters of the Minden community are asking state health officials to keep a more accurate count of cancer deaths there. Minden residents and the late Dr. Hassan Amjad have counted an extremely high number of deaths among current and former Minden residents, but state health officials say the cancer death rate there is much lower.

One of those being honored at Saturday’s march is the late Lucian Randall, who became ill with cancer after falling into a contaminated creek. Randall was a core member of Concerned Citizens to Save Fayette County, the activist group that started the fight against toxic PCB dumping in the 1980s and 1990s. Photos from the original march show Randall pushing a barrel of the type used to store PCB oil at Shaffer’s.

Randall died in 1995, but relative Eddie Fruit planned to push a barrel in Saturday’s march in his honor.

“The work they started, we are still fighting for,” Fruit said in a news release about the march. “Lucian was caring enough to walk for better living for people in Minden.

“My mother worked for Shaffer’s. She died of cancer. My three brothers all had cancer. I just have to put my faith in God to push me on down the road.”

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Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com

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