EPA hosts open house in Oak Hill; Minden residents leave feeling frustrated

OAK HILL, W.Va (WOAY) – The people of Minden have been awaiting the return of the EPA after being put on the National Priority List in May because of PCB contamination caused by an old mine equipment-cleaning site and old nearby mines. On Wednesday, the EPA returned to Oak Hill where they held an open house for people to come by and ask questions about the upcoming tests. However, some Minden residents, like Darrell Thomas, left unsatisfied. 

“What we was hoping is that they would actually see what were dealing with,” Thomas said. “It’s not only PCB. It’s all the other metals and the pesticides and all the stuff that’s coming out of the mines and the toxic amount of sewer that Oak Hill’s putting down on us with all the water being diverted down on top of us. Everything together is killing people, but they don’t want to hear that. They don’t want to listen.” 

Those with the EPA said they were there to listen and to answer questions that the people there might have as the EPA prepares to start testing soon.

When asked why it has been months since they’ve been back after they deemed Minden a priority, they said there has been work behind the scenes assembling teams and planning the tests.

Justice in this situation, according to the people of Minden, is relocation for the people in the community. Right now, the goal of the EPA is to test until December and once that data comes back they can decide to test further or take the measures to remove the toxins from the soil by digging it up and replacing it.

“If we can’t remove those risks safely, then we would look to other means,” EPA Region 3 Remedial Project Manager Stepan Nevshehirlian said. “But it’s pretty rare that that’s the case and all the sampling that we’ve conducted to date doesn’t indicate that that’s a likely scenario.” 

That’s one of the topics where Minden residents pushed back as the community said the large amount of deaths and cases of cancer they’ve seen should be evidence enough that Minden is dangerous to live in. 

For Susie Worley-Jenkins, who has lived in Minden all of her life, she has watched the EPA come in and out of her community for the past 35 years. She was another community member who left the meeting feeling frustrated. However, when asked what keeps her coming back, her answer has always been the same. 

“The people,” she said. “They need a chance. They don’t need to be treated the way they are.”

The EPA said they will begin initial testing a week from Monday. 

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Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com