MINDEN, WV – Gov. Jim Justice joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler today for an announcement that the Shaffer Equipment / Arbuckle Creek area site in the Fayette County community of Minden has officially been added to the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.
The location in Minden has seen significant contamination issues going back to the 1980s, when elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were first discovered by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection in the soil near the old Shaffer Equipment Company site. Since then, additional testing by the WVDEP and, later, the EPA indicated additional contamination in the waters of the nearby Arbuckle Creek and in certain residential areas of Minden.
“I’m not going to let this travesty continue on my watch,” Gov. Justice said. “Since the 1980’s, far too many people in this area have suffered and even died from terrible diseases like cancer. Past governors, federal representatives, and past presidential administrations have simply kicked the can down the road while our people got sicker. Those politicians should be very apologetic to our great West Virginians. After I talked directly to President Trump, the EPA, and our West Virginia DEP, finally the people of this great community are going to be helped. This is such an important day because the wonderful people of Minden have been hurting for too long and they’ve been waiting on this level of help for decades.”
Being added to the National Priorities List is a significant step toward ridding the area of this contamination once and for all, as it allows the EPA to utilize federal funding and other resources to conduct comprehensive, long-term cleanup initiatives on the site.
“By adding the Shaffer Equipment / Arbuckle Creek area to the National Priorities List, we are taking action to clean up the site and protect the health of the local community,” Administrator Wheeler said. “EPA listened closely to the concerns of the community in making this decision, and our commitment to the Minden community is that a site on the National Priorities List will be a true national priority.”
From 1970 to 1984, Shaffer Equipment used oil containing these PCBs in certain equipment they built, including electrical transformers. For years, the company stored damaged and outdated transformers on site property, which leaked coolant and lubricants with PCBs into the surrounding area. Frequent flooding in the area caused the PCBs to be spread to those residential areas.
The EPA’s involvement on the site dates back to 1984, when the agency performed the first of two soil removal actions over a seven-year span in efforts to stop the spread.
In 2017, Gov. Justice’s first year in office, calls for action by the people of Minden and the governor resulted in additional testing on the site to determine whether it would qualify for National Priorities List designation and funds.
According to the EPA, elevated levels of PCBs have also been found up to one mile downstream in Arbuckle Creek. Wetlands along the creek and endangered species’ habitats are also contaminated. In addition, the creek flows into the New River Gorge National River which is used extensively for recreation and fishing.
“I’ve said so many times how blessed, nature-wise, we are here in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “We need to make sure that every single one of our people can enjoy all the beauty that our great state has to offer without being worried about contaminants.
“Being added onto this list is only the first step, but it’s an absolutely critical step that we needed to take,” Gov. Justice said. “I’m excited to get started on finally cleaning this mess up and now we’re going to move as fast as we can so we can get the people of Minden back to their normal lives.”