"Coal Dust Is Blowin’ in the Wind"

"That black stuff spilling off railcars is a threat to public health and waterways across the United States".

"When Kim Williams moved to the Lambert’s Point neighborhood in coastal Norfolk, Virginia, in 1989, she immediately noticed the soot. The laundry hung on the clothesline became dusty. When she opened the windows in spring, black grime collected on the white sills. Running her hand along her home’s siding darkened her fingerprint. Her children’s outdoor toys were caked with the same dark-gray residue. After her two boys played in the yard, their knees looked like they’d wrestled in charcoal.

She’d stick the boys in the bathtub, and then she’d clean grime off the tub after they washed. Her eldest son, now 32, developed chronic sinus and ear infections as he grew up. Her younger son, now 23, had childhood asthma.      

“I don’t know the connection, but they grew up in an old house and an attic filled with coal dust,” Williams said. Neither son lives in Norfolk anymore; her eldest son’s symptoms went away after he moved to Philadelphia, and her younger son eventually outgrew his asthma.

More than 30 years after Williams moved to Norfolk, coal dust remains a hazard in her neighborhood. The coal dust that to this day billows into Lambert’s Point comes from the Norfolk Southern rail line, train terminal, and shipyard."

Austyn Gaffney reports for Sierra magazine September 26, 2023.

Source: Sierra, 09/28/2023