The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Monday added the site of a former mining equipment operation in West Virginia to its National Priorities List of Superfund sites.
The EPA announced in a news release the addition of the Shaffer Equipment/Arbuckle Creek Area Site in Minden to the list. That would make it a federal priority for cleanup, enforcement and funding. The EPA had proposed the move in September.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said in the EPA statement that Monday marked an important day because residents of Minden, a town of about 250 in Fayette County, "have been hurting for too long and they've been waiting on this level of help for decades."
The Shaffer Equipment Co. manufactured equipment used in mining from 1970 to 1984. PCBs were used by the company in the making of electrical substations. The industrial chemicals were banned in the U.S. in 1979 over concerns they can harm human and environmental health.
Leaks, spills and dumping contributed to PCB contamination at the facility and runoff in adjacent Arbuckle Creek. PCB-contaminated sediment spread to residential properties through frequent floods.
From 1984 to 1991, the EPA performed two soil removal actions at the site. The EPA was notified in 1997 of a fire at the remaining building on the Shaffer site that contained materials with PCBs. After another assessment was conducted, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2002 completed constructed of a cap for the remaining contaminated soils and building debris.
Arbuckle Creek flows into the New River Gorge National River, which is extensively used for recreation and fishing.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito accompanied EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler to the Shaffer site Monday. Capito said the designation is "not only an acknowledgement of the work that needs to be done, but it's also a commitment from the federal government — a commitment of attention and resources and a commitment to provide more financial and technical assistance to clean up this site and any lingering PCB pollution in the surrounding area."
"That also means delivering a new sense of safety and certainty to all those who call Minden home, and it means providing for the health and well-being of West Virginians."