Harbor Homes–Living in a Cloud of Coal Dust

Harbor Homes—Living in a Cloud of Coal Ash

By Jacqui Patterson with Guest Contributor, Lillie Lindsay of Virginia Beach, VA

 Yesterday the EPA hosted the first of a series of Coal Ash Hearings in Arlington, VA with the aim of getting feedback on the proposed “Coal Combustion Rule.” As a bit of background, the toxins in coal ash such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and others, have been linked to cancer, organ disease, respiratory illness, neurological damage, and reproductive and developmental problems. Coal ash facilities are disproportionately located in close proximity to poor communities and communities of color.

Lillie Lindsay, a longtime friend with whom I served in Jamaica in Peace Corps, whose parents are lifetime members of the NAACP, responded to my plea to board a bus at 7am and journey to Arlington to give testimony on exposure to coal ash in communities near where she lives in Virginia Beach.

Lillie’s testimony (which was subsequently truncated due to time restrictions) is below:

NAACP Member Lillie Lindsay, Virginia Beach, VA

Between1996-2004 service was provided by me as a United States Army Stevedore in the enlisted reserves.  During my service, I had a comrade, named Specialist Hemby.  She asked if I would give her a ride after our drill, and indicated that her home was on the way to my house.

Upon entering her community, I made the discovery that she lived across the road from the Coal Storage facility in Newport News, Virginia.  I asked her if she had any problems from living so close to this coal storage facility.  She indicated that when she first moved to the community, she would reprimand her daughter because she would come home with her clothes as black as tar paper.  Day after day, she would return after playing in the playground area, with her clothes covered.  Finally she asked her, “What were you doing, rolling in mud?”  Her daughter responded, “No mama, I was just swinging and using the sliding board.”  At that moment, she realized that the slide was little more than a coal shute.

After we had this conversation, my ride over the Merimac Monitor tunnel was never the same.  I could not help but wonder what the environmental effects would be on one to live so close to the tons of pulverized coal which was sprayed down in mountains, across from members of the Hampton Roads community.

Members of our unit were asked to return to active duty after September 11th, and my comrade Specialist Hemby was one of the courageous members who voluntarily served.  This did not surprise me, as she was a volunteer for the step team at her child’s school.  Service was something which was the very spirit of that which she did.  Selfless -service was in fact one of the U.S Army’s core values.

Imagine this, pulverized coal is one of this country’s second most popular energy forms, the spirit to serve is the impetus which drives the United States Army.  Imagine. One who makes this county the great nation that it is, is living life in an environment not fit for habitation. 

I have created a YouTube video entitled Harbor Homes A Diamond In the Rough.  This is a photo essay of a community at the heels of a Coal Storage facility.  As you watch this, all that I ask is that you realize that the diamonds in the rough are those brave men and women who live honorable life under great environmental pressure. 

According to science, a piece of coal is unlikely to become a diamond.  It is theorized that it would take millions of years for such a process to unfold.  I would like to think that the Environmental Protection Agency is capable of revealing the diamonds which are obscured by metric tons of pulverized coal dust, but putting pressure on industries to insure clean air for the real natural resources within our community……The American People!

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Explore posts in the same categories: African American Climate Advocacy

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