I am just an ordinary citizen. I have no power to make you answer the simple yes-or-no question I want to ask you. All I can do is ask my question and hope that you will choose to answer it. If you do answer it, all I can do then is hope that my fellow citizens and voters will take note of your answer. If you choose not to answer my question, I hope my fellow citizens and voters will wonder why.
Here is my question. Should you choose to answer it, all you have to say is yes or no, though you are perfectly welcome to elaborate on your answer:
If you are elected to the Norfolk City Council, will you demand that Norfolk Southern Corporation stop its coal dust polluting AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?
I personally feel that the grime factor alone is reason enough for Norfolk Southern to stop its coal dust polluting. Why should the residents of the neighborhoods closest to Norfolk Southern’s coal handling have to continually clean that filthy stuff off their properties, especially considering the fact that Norfolk Southern is a huge corporation and hugely profitable, and it can easily afford to contain that dust and keep it from blowing into the neighborhoods?
Norfolk Southern has continually maintained that the coal dust it allows to escape into Norfolk neighborhoods has not been proven to be harmful to the residents of those neighborhoods. Yet coal dust is known to contain carcinogens and toxins and neurotoxins that are particularly harmful to developing children. The particulates that constitute coal dust can also be very tiny, in the less than 2.5 micron diameter range, tiny enough travel deep into people’s lungs and even enter their bloodstreams. So should Norfolk Southern stop gambling with the health of the citizens of Norfolk by saving money instead of guaranteeing that its activities are not risking people’s health?
It is time for the Norfolk City Council to stop kicking the coal dust issue down the road, as it did last year when it called on the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to conduct yet another lengthy air monitoring study — another study of Norfolk Southern’s polluting financed and implemented by Norfolk Southern itself. Rather than an air monitoring study based on questionably lax air quality standards and questionably obtained data, maybe the coal dust that actually arrives at people’s properties should be studied and analyzed. As things stand now, the DEQ claims it does not even have the standards for looking at the dust on people’s properties. So maybe the City of Norfolk should tell our environmental watchdogs to get on the stick and develop and implement such standards. Maybe the coal dust that gets into people’s bodies should be studied, too. An epidemiological study of the effects of coal dust on the health of the residents of Norfolk seems long overdue.
The fact that the coal industry, and consequently Norfolk Southern’s coal hauling and loading business, have been in decline lately should not absolve Norfolk Southern from its responsibility to be a good neighbor and stop polluting its own hometown. That the amount of Norfolk Southern’s coal dust polluting may be decreasing with the amount of coal it handles should not give Norfolk Southern an excuse to keep on polluting for years and years to come until its coal handling business finally dries up completely.
– Ray Gregory