Minden Residents Use Own PCB Testing Kits As They Wait for EPA

MINDEN, W.Va (WOAY) – It’s been over four months since the small community of Minden was put on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Priority List. Residents who have been dealing with PCB contamination for decades say they haven’t felt like much of a priority and because of this have taken matters into their own hands.

Darrell Thomas has lived in Minden for all of his life. In the 1980s, when PCB tests came back positive after Shaffer Equipment closed down and dumped what was left in the community, a fight for justice began.  He and the community felt like after decades they were finally getting somewhere after being deemed a priority by the EPA. 

“It was a big thrill. I mean, man, finally we were going to get something done,” Thomas said. “And then they said, ‘Well we’re going to come down here and test in July.’ And then July came to late October to November now and then who knows? They’re probably going to postpone it again.” 

Thomas and others are tired of waiting which is why they’ve started doing testing themselves in hopes to spread awareness and keep the EPA’s attention.  This even prompted Thomas to create a Facebook page as he’s seen too many loved ones die because of the contamination. 

“I mean, I can point to at least 20 maybe 30 cancer deaths and people that’s fought through cancer, brain tumors. I mean, I can point to them just in this small area. And they don’t wanna hear it,” Thomas said. 

And Thomas believes the PCBs aren’t just coming from Shaffer Equipment. We tested an area that’s experiencing runoff contamination from the eight mines that used to operate in the area. We used a soil testing kit that others in the community have used as well. 

“The people of Minden have done a lot on their own going out testing on their own, buying supplies on their own because that’s what pushes the EPA to actually come down,” Anye Amjad, a friend of Minden, said.  

Like all of the tests Thomas has done, our results tested positive for PCB contamination putting it over 50 parts-per-million just in that one spot which exceeds the EPA’s limit. But Thomas says he knows his own testing will never be enough for the EPA. 

“They can also come around here and put it in test tubes and leave it sitting in coolers for weeks at a time and their tests are alright. But when we do it and we find it, our tests isn’t credible, so it’s just another problem we face but you know, we know the truth and we’ll keep fighting. Maybe we’ll get somewhere,” Thomas said.  

We reached out to the EPA and they said the plan right now is to come in late October or early November but the logistics are still being worked out. Residents believe the delay stems from the fact that hotter weather produces higher PCB tests. They also believe rafting season has something to do with it. When asked about the delay, the EPA said they would look into it and get back to us. 

Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.