Part One – Coal Dust: Lambert Point’s Invisible Menace
Each day, thousands of Norfolk Southern railcars, gorged with coal from Virginia and West Virginia mines, flow along on tracks to the Lambert’s Point Pier in Norfolk.
But for some, its impact on the region’s environment and on the health of residents living near coal piers or along the tracks where railcars traverse each day has long been a local concern.
“Our organization has so many issues related to crime and justice, reentry, economics and other issues facing poor and Black communities,” said Byrum.
Byrum said state and federal health surveys indicate that particles of coal dust have attributed to a number of chronic health issues: asthma, bronchitis, heart disease and other ills related to breathing.
In the early 1970s, when the Nixon Administration created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it began imposing more stringent air and water pollution standards.
“Every five years, the state issues them a permit to operate, from the State Department of Environmental Quality.
Brandt said the only instance when coal dust would be stirred into the air is when the cars are flipped to have the contents dumped to be stored.
Brandt said after a series of complaints against Norfolk Southern, the company paid for a study to determine the extent of coal dust pollution in the region, in coordination with DEQ.
The NOAAA site still operates to monitor coal and other air pollutants.
Byrum said, “Norfolk, specifically, is tied to industry and that is what makes the city so great.