Norfolk Southern permeates its own hometown, Norfolk, Virginia, with coal dust.




(Where to complain)


(What YOU can do)



(SEE the polluting) 

Swipe Tests

(How and Why)


(Coal terminal)

Smigiel Letter

(City Council resolution)


(The published facts)


Coal Dust in the Neighborhoods

A Window Cleaning Revelation

Each photo below (taken October, 2014) shows the accumulation on the exterior glass pane (approx. four square feet) of a single window sash. These windows, in a house located in West Ghent about one mile from Norfolk Southern's coal loading piers, had last been cleaned about four months before. And this is only what blew through the screen and stuck to the vertical panes of glass. Think of what ends up, day after day, year after year, everywhere else: on streets and driveways and roofs and lawns — and inside your and your children's lungs.


Norfolk Southern would probably dismiss these photos as just more “anecdotal evidence,” since no "unbiased" expert employed by Norfolk Southern collected the dust and analyzed it in a lab paid by Norfolk Southern to determine whether this dust was indeed coal dust. Norfolk Southern could also allege that the guy who took this photo is just another shill for some radical environmentalist group trying to shut down their coal hauling business. But he is not a member of any such group, and his goal is not to damage Norfolk Southern’s business, but hopefully to start a conversation about whether Norfolk Southern is acting responsibly and whether it should finally, after all these years, clean up its act. For far too long Norfolk Southern, aided and abetted by both local and state politicians, has been sweeping the coal dust issue under the rug: Out of sight, out of mind. No problem, nothing to worry about.

andria mcclellan, norfolk southern, city council

Of course the stuff on these windows contains coal dust. The windows facing the direction of Norfolk Southern’s coal loading facilities are the ones that collect most of this black stuff. And nothing stands between this house in West Ghent and Norfolk Southern’s coal loading equipment — no other grand generator of airborne dust — except for approximately a one mile width of Norfolk Southern's railroad yard, which is full of Norfolk Southern coal cars waiting to be unloaded.

andria mcclellan, norfolk southern, city council

Norfolk Southern claims the dust that blows into Norfolk neighborhoods is not even coal dust for the most part, that the concentrations of coal dust in the environment are not high enough to be a real concern, that the science is not there to prove that the amount of coal dust that Norfolk Southern spews is dangerous. See some of Norfolk Southern’s typical denials: Norfolk Southern Propaganda.

One month after the above cleaning, one of these windows was rubbed with a dry cloth. This was the accumulation on this window after only one month:


And don't forget the window sills:


Cars need lots of washing too:


Back in the Day

From the "Back in the Day: This week in Hampton Roads history" section of the Norfolk Compass on July 5, 2015, referring to this week in 1990:

"Residents in Norfolk's West Ghent neighborhood have been dealing with an excessive amount of coal dust over the past couple of weeks blowing onto their properties from Norfolk Southern coal piers at Lamberts Point. Residents are accustomed to the dust. But since a hose on one of the sprinkler systems that keeps the coal wet has been malrunctioning, an increased amount of dust is leaving the yard. Norfolk Southern will close the coal dump for two weeks for routine maintenance and fix the hose during that time."

So dumping with a malfrunctioning dust suppression system goes on for at least two weeks, and after complaints from the neighborhood, cavalier Norfolk Southern says it will fix the problem sometime in the future during routine maintenance.


Photos of some neighborhood ammenities just a gust of wind away from Norfolk Southern's coal loading facilities


The neighborhoods of Lamberts Point and West Ghent are closest to Norfolk Southern's dusty facilities:

andria mcclellan, norfolk southern, city council

Vegetable gardens (Norfolk Southern's railroad yard is just behind those trees):


Elementary school:


School playgound:


Neighborhood miniplayground:


Public golf course (now anyway) right next to Norfolk Southern's coal loading piers:


Outside dining:


Softball field (within sight of Norfolk Southern's Lamberts Point ship loaders):


Country club swimming pool covered for winter, but teeming with kids during the swimming season (Norfolk Southern's railroad yard lies just behind those trees):


Bird and wildlife sanctuary (right next to Norfolk Southern):


Public tennis courts:


A popular dog walking park:


Several neighborhood miniparks:


The Elizabeth River Trail — for walking, jogging, and biking. The pine trees along this stretch of it were planted by a group of concerned neighbors in the 1970s in an effort to stop some of the coal dust from reaching their adjacent neighborhood to the left. Norfolk Southern's railroad yard is inside (just to the right of) the chainlink and barbed wire fence:


City water treatment plant right next to Norfolk Southern's railroad yard:


Google Earth image of water treatment plant and Norfolk Southern's railroad yard. Dark rectangles in center of the photo are the open-air sedimentation basins:









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