Norfolk, VA - Residents from historically black Lambert’s Point neighborhood gathered to share stories about the health impacts of Norfolk Southern’s harmful coal dust and their plans to take action.
On Thursday at 6 p.m., community members from Lambert’s Point gathered at First Baptist Church Lambert's Point on West 38th St. to discuss the harmful coal dust that has plagued family and friends in their community for over 25 years, and to call on Norfolk Southern Corporation-- the railroad company with a coal terminal on the Elizabeth River -- to cover their coal dust immediately. Community members also drafted a letter to the company’s CEO, James Squires, demanding a meeting as part of a larger campaign to hold Norfolk Southern accountable.
“We have a right to clean air,” said Lafeetah Byrum, New Virginia Majority’s environmental justice organizer. “This dust has polluted our communities while city officials and Norfolk Southern neglect and ignore its obviously harmful effects. We’re here to gather the community, share stories, and make sure our voices are heard and demand our lives come before corporate greed.”
“Since moving less than three blocks away from Norfolk Southern’s facility two months ago, my 6-year-old son who suffers from asthma has gone to the emergency room 4 times and his medications have increased from 5 a day to now 12 a day,” said Mary Mobley, resident of Lambert’s Point. “The doctor has confirmed that this is because of the new heavily polluted environment we live in. I want my son to be able to play outside and live a free life, but we have to keep him inside because of Norfolk Southern’s coal dust. They need to put people before profit and cover their dust."
“I have witnessed so many people fall victim to respiratory diseases in Lambert’s Point. An alarming number of people have died right here in this community. I know because I buried them,” said Reverend Anthony Paige of First Baptist Church Lambert’s Point. “It is time for Norfolk Southern to become a good neighbor. We have a simple request: cover the coal dumpers and the rail cars. At a time when our administration has a total disregard for the environment, we have to be vigilant because people of color are the first to suffer.”
Community members in Norfolk will be holding meetings and collecting data about the environmental and public health effects of Norfolk Southern as they seek to meet with Squires over the next several weeks.
New Virginia Majority organizes working-class communities of color across the Commonwealth. We fight for racial and economic justice through political education, mobilization, and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic, and environmentally sustainable.