Q&A: What's Life like Just Yards from a Kentucky Coal Plant?
'Amazing Race' Contestant William 'Bopper' Minton Talks About His Family's Life Near the B & W Resources Plant
By Lana Bandoim
Can you imagine fighting an endless stream of coal dust that permeates the air and watching it destroy your child's lungs? This is a daily reality for William "Bopper" Minton, a contestant on the current season of the "Amazing Race."
I had the opportunity to interview Bopper about his experience on the show and his ongoing struggle with the neighboring coal processing plant. The motorcycle mechanic from Manchester, Ky., lives 150 yards away from the B & W Resources Inc. tipple and has been documenting multiple violations at the coal processing plant.
Can you explain how you ended up living next to a coal processing plant?
Bopper: This was my grandfather's land, and he handed it down to my dad. I moved here at 12 years old. When I moved here, the plant was shut down and torn down. We never expected it to reopen again. About 9 years ago, they reopened it and made it even bigger. They basically bust up coal and load it on a train. The coal dust is intense. I got to give them some credit. They have done some work, but we just can't keep the coal dust out. It's too close for comfort. I can look out my kitchen window and see the plant.
How has having a coal plant as a neighbor affected your daughter's health?
Bopper: Madison has severe respiratory problems, and I've got the proof from doctors that it's caused by the coal dust. She's only 8 years old, but they have her on 7 different medications for asthma and allergies. She's had problems since she was a baby. At 6.5 months, she had a severe asthma attack and was hospitalized.
You mentioned that you are surrounded by coal dust. Can you describe your neighborhood and the impact that coal has had on its residents?
Bopper: We got the highway on one side and the processing plant on the other side. We're basically in the middle of a horseshoe and catching coal dust at every angle. There are only a couple of families in my neighborhood, so we're easy to ignore. We're poor people and up against a big coal company. They win.
My neighbor's dad died from lung cancer shortly after they opened up the processing plant. He never smoked. My whole family has lost their gallbladders. I do have some asthma, but I was a grown man before I was exposed to the coal dust. It's especially hard on children. That's why Madison is so sick. My neighbors have COPD and cancer. They don't smoke. Every day, we see huge plumes of coal dust from the plant and the trucks on the highway carrying the coal. I go outside and just touch the siding on my house, and my whole hand is covered in black dust. You can't get rid of it. It's everywhere.
How have people reacted to your appearance on the "Amazing Race"?
Bopper: Manchester is a small town. Everyone knows me. The show definitely helped me get more attention. I'm grateful for the opportunity they gave me to tell my story, but the processing plant ignores me. They know Madison is sick. Right now, all I get from them is silence.
What has been the result of your efforts to fight the coal processing plant?
Bopper: I've tried to speak to several lawyers here. Their families make money from coal, so they won't do anything. The EPA has been here. They agreed with the situation, but no one would do anything. I don't use coal as heat. I don't work in the coal plant. I see coal dust on my house and in my house. It's dust leaving the permitted area of the plant. Nobody wants to hear it. People feel threatened.
Why have you not been able to relocate?
Bopper: Who is going to buy my place? Everyone knows about the coal dust. I'm stuck here. I can't afford to move, and I can't sell it. I want to move. I know what it's doing to us, but I just can't do it.
What would you like B&W Resources Inc. to do?
Bopper: It's fixable, but they won't fix it. The fix is just to relocate the plant or relocate the families who live next to it.
You have captured multiple videos of violations at the plant. What has been the response to this evidence?
Bopper: I have the videos and a Facebook page, but the biggest problem is the state inspectors doing nothing. The inspectors look at the violations but won't write it up. Everything is corrupted. I've seen them come out here, and they won't do anything.
What do you plan to do next?
Bopper: The plant's permit is up for renewal. We're going to protest and keep fighting. http://news.yahoo.com/q-whats-life-just-yards-kentucky-coal-plant-235500018.html