Norfolk, VA - At 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 11, members of the Lambert’s Point community directly affected by toxic coal dust from Norfolk Southern’s rail cars and rotary dumpers, rallied and chanted outside of the Hilton Norfolk The Main Hotel.
Norfolk Southern management and shareholders were greeted with calls to end its toxic practices that wreak havoc on the health and safety of the predominantly Black and working-class communities nearby.
“Since moving less than three blocks away from Norfolk Southern’s facility three months ago, my 6-year-old son who suffers from asthma has gone to the emergency room five 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.”
This rally comes after Lambert’s Point residents signed and mailed a letter requesting a meeting with Norfolk Southern CEO, James Squires, with no response to date. New Virginia Majority held a community meeting with residents of Lambert’s Point last month to discuss the public health outcomes and other negative impacts Norfolk Southern’s fugitive coal dust is having on their community. Many residents have been suffering under Norfolk Southern’s coal dust for decades.
“The company promotes a charitable and socially responsible image by donating to local businesses, universities, and the arts community while ignoring the obviously harmful effects of its coal dust," said Lafeetah Byrum, New Virginia Majority’s environmental justice organizer. "If Norfolk Southern wants to have an impact on the community, they need to cover the coal dust that pollutes working-class communities of color. We’re here to make sure our voices are heard by decision-makers at Norfolk Southern. They have a social and moral responsibility to hear us and to stop killing us.”
The public health risks of exposure to the highly toxic formula of metals in coal dust, such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic used in coal dust include COPD, chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, heart disease, kidney disease, pneumonia, infant mortality, and premature death. Community members passed out leaflets detailing the harmful effects of coal dust to shareholders as they walked into their meeting. An enlarged, signed letter requesting a meeting with Squires and the board was given to a Norfolk Southern representative to deliver to them directly.
New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization, and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic, and environmentally sustainable.