The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to clean up a former mining equipment operation in Fayette County, known as the Shaffer site. On Monday, the EPA announced that the Shaffer site has been added to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.
The Shaffer Equipment Co. manufactured equipment used in mining from 1970 to 1984. The company leaked polychlorinated biphenyl — more commonly known as PCB— into the soil.
EPA officials hosted a community conversation in Minden on Wednesday inside a small church to talk with residents about their next steps.
“We’ve started planning and scoping our remedial investigation, which will include conducting additional sampling and testing to fully define any remaining contamination," explained Stepan Nevsheirlian, EPA’s project manager for the Shaffer site. He said his team will return to Minden this summer to take additional samples.
"Once we collect that data, that will determine what’s next," he said.
Nevsheirlian said it’s unlikely the EPA will be relocating any residents who currently live in Minden. He said they haven’t yet found any concentrations of PCBs that are high enough in residential areas to lead them to believe it’s unsafe for residents to remain in their homes.
The EPA has been involved in cleaning out the PCBs from Minden several different times throughout the years. The people in Minden have been dealing with PCB contamination and possible health impacts from that contamination, for decades.
Minden resident, Darrel Thomas, was at the public event to voice his frustration that after all these years, he feels like the EPA isn’t doing enough to address the environmental problems in his community. “It’s a good thing we’re on the National Priorities List. But it’s nothing more than a band-aid. It always has been. It’s just sad.”
State Sen. Stephen Baldwin, a Democrat who represents Fayette County, expressed a similar sentiment. Baldwin has sponsored legislation and resolutions aimed at advocating for Minden residents, including SR 76, which passed during the last legislative session. The resolution urges federal and state agencies to help residents relocate away from Minden and provide resrouces for "specialized medical treatment as a result of their long-term exposure to polychlorinated biphenyl, dioxins, and dibenzofurans."
Baldwin said the official listing on the National Priorities List is a good step, but cautioned more needs to be done.
"I think the good news is it provides resources and they were very clear that you're a priority and we're going to bring all the resources we need to bare on this situation and so I'm hopeful about that," he said. "I think this is a good start, but it's a start it's going to require significant follow ups."