Founding member, Warne Ferguson, passes away

Gail and Warne Ferguson painting by Jeff Pierson

Warne Leon Ferguson

On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, Mr. Warne “Ponce De” Leon Ferguson, 87, passed away peacefully at his home in Institute, WV after a week of loving care from his daughters whom he shared with his beloved wife of 42 years, Gail Marie.

Warne spent his formative years in Institute, and reveled in the fact that he had been educated on the campus of WVSC exclusively, starting in kindergarten in a segregated normal school, graduating to the WV State High School, and continuing to WVSC; interrupted by a voluntary enrollment in the Army after the Pearl Harbor attacks where he served as an Air Corps Bomb Tech Specialist, at Hickam Field AFB in Hawaii. Upon his return, he earned his Bachelor’s degree from WVSC, graduating with a degree in Health, Fitness and Physiology, and became a letterman in 3 sports: Tennis, Golf and Basketball.

He relocated to NYC after his studies, where he worked and ultimately would retire from the NY Board of Education, having taught in the elementary schools of Harlem. Warne was regarded throughout Manhattan as a pioneer for children’s fitness, but his proudest moments came from work as the recreation director of various afterschool programs for the Children’s Aid Society. In later years, he would go on to champion tennis programs for underserved youth and coach as part of the Jr. American Tennis Association in both NY and Charleston, WV. While in NY, he utilized his proximity to the Univ. of Mass at Amherst to pursue his Master’s degree.

It was also in NY that he would meet the love of his life, Gail Marie Jackson, and start a family. Eventually, he would move his family back to WV, but not before he put his wife through law school at Georgetown University while advancing his career in NYC. Shortly before she graduated, he began his service to WVSC as the Director of Upward Bound and Special Services Programs, a position he would hold for over 10 years.

Upon his return to the WV area, he continued his quest for social justice by founding the grassroots organization, People Concerned About MIC (now People Concerned About Chemical Safety), as a community advocate and activist. Warne was particularly interested in protecting the communities of Institute and West Dunbar from the environmental racism they had been subjected to since the early 1920s. He persevered and lived to witness the dismantling of the MIC production units in his community.

Warne was also able to claim fame for being the first African American “allowed” to play in the WV Public Courts tennis tournament. Breaking through the color barrier, was his opportunity to become the first African American to win a division at those same tournaments. He would go on to win over 5 Championships in various divisions of the Public Courts. Although he was a natural athlete with a keen eye and talent for basketball, tennis, table tennis, and football punting, it was golf for which he had a passion. In his retirement he lived on the golf course, becoming affectionately known as “Sweet Swinging Ferg.” When he wasn’t playing golf, he would most certainly be attending to his wife who pre-deceased him, spending time with loved ones, and assisting infirmed friends.

In the twilight of years and even through his most recent illness, one could easily find him at the Kroger’s deli in Dunbar, coffee in hand, communing with friends and employees, joking and telling tales of his love of family, jazz and a life well lived. He will be missed.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Gail Marie (nee Jackson); parents Daniel L. and Katherine W. Ferguson; siblings, Jane E. Ferguson, Daniel L. Ferguson, Jr., Katherine L. Ferguson, Stewart Ferguson and Raynina Swann; 2 grandchildren; 2 great-grandchildren; and 2 nephews. He leaves to mourn his death a son, Ricky Bowles of MI; daughters, Deborah Lynn Powell of OH, Gregg Suzanne McAllister of WV, Kathy L. Ferguson of WV and Hillary Ferguson Jackson (Jodi) of DC; brothers, Joseph T. Ferguson and Gurnett E. Ferguson (Phyllis), both of OH, and sister, Sue Ann Davis of WV; 9 grandchildren; 6 great-grandchildren; 4 nieces; 2 nephews; and a host of cousins and extended family.

A wake will be held on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Davis Fine Arts Bldg. on the campus of WVSU, Institute, WV. Formal Funeral Services will be held Sat., Nov 15, 2014 at Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church, located at 12 Marshall Ave., Dunbar, WV. A viewing will be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., immediately followed by the services. The interment will be at Grandview Memorial Park in Dunbar. Arrangements entrusted to Preston Funeral Home of Charleston.


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Chemical Release Prevention Program – Roadmap Planning Team

The Chemical Release Prevention Program Roadmap Planning Team NEXT MEETING is Friday, November 14th from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.  It will be held at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department in the 1st Floor Conference Meeting Room.  Meetings are open to the public and public input will be solicited.  Please RSVP if you plan to attend.  For more information on the team, see this post.

Public comments can now be submitted online.  ***PLEASE NOTE: All comments will be made publicly available.***

In case you couldn’t make it to the first meeting of the Chemical Release Prevention Program Roadmap Planning Team, here it is on video!  Extra special thanks to Mike Youngren with Volunteer Video for helping us out!

MEETING #1 – October 24, 2014 (completed)

Chemical Release Prevention Program – Roadmap Planning Team

This video can also be accessed at

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Roadmap for Chemical Release Prevention Program Gets Off The Ground


CONTACT:  Maya Nye, Executive Director


Roadmap for Chemical Release Prevention Program Gets Off The Ground

Charleston, WV – Almost four years after initial recommendations were made by the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), a Chemical Release Prevention Program for the Kanawha Valley is in sight.

“The final push to get the program off the ground was knowing that the January 9th Elk River Chemical Spill could have been prevented if this program was in place,” said Maya Nye, Executive Director of People Concerned About Chemical Safety (PCACS), a local non-profit organization dedicated to preventing chemical disasters.

Kanawha Valley has been home of a number of chemical incidents over the years.  The 2008 explosion at the Bayer CropScience facility in Institute was what sparked the initial CSB recommendation, but is only one in a series of local chemicals disasters.  At least four workers have lost their lives in the valley and at least six across the state from chemical incidents since 2008.[1]

“One worker fatality is one too many.  Plus,” she adds, “we owe it to our kids and most vulnerable.”

Recent data from the Center for Effective Government indicates that one in three US children go to school everyday near facilities that use or store hazardous chemicals within areas described as “vulnerable.”[2] In West Virginia alone, 33% of our schoolchildren at risk of a experiencing a chemical disaster with schools in Kanawha Valley among the top at-risk.  Demographics in another report using the same data indicate that the people who are disproportionately burdened by chemical disasters are low-income communities and communities of color. [3]  Nye says that, “this data doesn’t even include possible threats from facilities like Freedom Industries.”

“The January 9th Elk River Chemical Spill reinforced the importance of coming together to identify solutions that prevent chemical disasters, a goal that is essential for our common future.”

Between now and June 2015, the Roadmap Planning Team will meet monthly to outline what a Chemical Release Prevention Program should look like for the Kanawha Valley.  The team will identify national best practices and garner public input among stakeholder groups in the development of an implementation roadmap.

Representatives ranging from public health, emergency response, occupational safety, labor, industry, impacted citizen and innovation have all been invited to participate.  “Since the recommendation was originally made as a result of the 2008 Bayer CropScience incident and reiterated after the 2010 DuPont incident, we reached out to them to lead industry interest in the process.  We’re still waiting on a few RSVPs, and optimistic that we will have a broad representation of interest at the table which is exciting,” says Nye.  “We all have a common interest in preventing chemical disasters in our valley.”

The first meeting of PCACS’ Chemical Release Prevention Roadmap Planning Team will be held on Friday, October 24th from 10:00am to noon and is open to the public.  The meeting will be held at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on Lee Street in Charleston in the 1st floor conference room.  Public comment will be taken at the end of the meeting, though many opportunities to provide input will exist between now and June.  For more information, contact People Concerned About Chemical Safety’s Executive Director, Maya Nye, at 304-389-6859 or


[1]; “Nitro chemical plant cited over worker’s death.” Available at; “Second worker dies from Antero gas well blast.” Available at

[3] “Who’s in Danger? Race, Poverty, and Chemical Disasters.” Available at


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One in Three U.S. Schoolchildren at Risk from Chemical Catastrophes

Kids in Danger Zones: One in Three U.S. Schoolchildren at Risk from Chemical CatastrophesOne in every three schoolchildren in America today attends a school within the vulnerability zone of a hazardous chemical facility. We value our children and do everything we can to keep them safe. Yet, one area that has proved surprisingly resistant to effective oversight is toxic chemicals.

33% of West Virginia Schoolchildren at Risk of Chemical Disaster

This Center for Effective Government report says that in West Virginia alone, 97,366 students attend school within the vulnerability zone of a high-risk chemical facility. That means that 1 in 3 students from preschool to high school face chemical leaks, gas clouds, or explosions.

The April 2013 fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas demonstrated the unseen dangers of chemical facilities. That explosion killed 15 people, injured hundreds of others, and destroyed three schools. If the explosion had occurred during the day, many schoolchildren might have been harmed as well.

But many students and schools could be better protected from danger. Safer
chemicals and technologies exist that would reduce or eliminate these
vulnerability zones and leave significantly fewer children at risk, and some
facilities have already made the switch. However, since these changes are
not required, many other facilities continue to use dangerous chemicals and leave schools, children, and neighbors at risk. The Obama administration could require facilities to switch to safer technologies and reduce the risk to West Virginia’s students.

Kids should not have to go to school each day with the looming threat of a chemical disaster when safer technologies exist.


We can make our children safer without shutting down industrial production or losing jobs.

The most effective way to protect our children from chemical disasters is to require companies to use safer chemical alternatives when they are available.

Facilities can shrink their vulnerability zones by reducing the amount of toxins produced or stored onsite.

New facilities with dangerous chemicals should not be sited near major population centers or probable growth areas around metropolitan areas. More ways to take action to protect your kids.

Posted in Bhopal disaster, chemical disaster, chemical safety, Chemical Safety Board, Chemical Valley, environmental health, Poverty and Chemical Disasters, right-to-know, Risk Management Plans, Uncategorized, Who's in Danger?: Race | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

New Research Shows Pollution Inequality in America Even Worse Than Income Inequality

Photo by Elizabeth Crowe

James K. Boyce, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, directs the environment program of the Political Economy Research Institute. His research focuses on the impacts of inequalities of wealth and power and the dynamics of conflict and includes the Toxic 100 Air Polluters, an index identifying the top U.S. air polluters among the world’s largest corporations. A 2009 special report by USA Today  drew upon Boyce’s work, along with EPA data, to create a database exposing air toxicity in schools across the country. In a new study funded by the Institute for New Economic Thinking’s Political Economy of Distribution Series, Boyce collaborates with Klara Zwickl and Michael Ash to compare disparities of exposure to industrial air pollution in U.S. states and congressional districts among the poor and non-poor, as well as whites and non-whites. They find that in America, inequality is in the very air we breathe.

Go here to read more:

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Provide your input to improve chemical safety!

ChemDisasterZone110 million. That’s how many Americans live close enough to a chemical facility to be at risk from a disaster.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now formally asking for public input on ways to improve its Risk Management Program which covers thousands of chemical facilities.


Tell them that we need safety to be a requirement for chemical facilities:

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Board Member Pam Nixon Appointed to Public Water System Supply Study Commission

On September 4th, Governor Tomblin announced his appointments to the Public Water System Supply Study Commission (PWSSSC).  Congratulations to one of our long-time members, past spokesperson and community advocate, Pam Nixon, on her appointment as the citizen representative!

Additional appointments include:

  • Dr. Rahul Gupta, Executive Director of the Kanawha Charleston Health Department appointed by Senate President Jeff Kessler (non-voting);
  • Delegate Nancy Guthrie, Democratic representative for Kanawha County’s 36th district appointed by House Speaker Tim Miley (non-voting);
  • Rick Roberts, P.E., who will serve as a professional engineer experienced in the design and construction of public water systems;
  • Ed Watson, who will serve as a hydrologist experienced in determining the flow characteristics of rivers and streams;
  • Dr. Mike McCawley, who will serve as an environmental toxicologist or other public health expert familiar with the impact of contaminants on the body; and
  • Randy Huffman,Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection;
  • Dr. Letitia Tierney, Commissioner of the Bureau for Public Health;
  • Jimmy Gianato (chair), Director of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management;
  • Mike Albert, chairman of the Public Service Commission.
  • Remaining appointments are outstanding from the WV Municipal League and the WV Rural Water Association.

The first meeting of the PWSSSC is on September 22 at 10am and will be held at the Governor’s Press Conference room adjacent to the Secretary of State’s office at the WV State Capitol.


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Chemical leak reported at the Dupont plant in Belle, WV

Posted: Aug 30, 2014 5:54 AM EDT
Updated: Aug 30, 2014 10:34 AM EDT
By Jeffrey Spradlin, Overnight Producer

Emergency crews responded to the scene of a reported chemical release at the Dupont plant in Belle, West Virginia.

According to Kanawha County 911 dispatchers, the call came in as a vapor release just before 4 a.m. Saturday, August 30.

Dispatchers say that the leak was from a Amiens unit that had been shut down for maintenance. Emergency crews began containing the diluted Amiens, and was collected and treated on on site…

Read more at :

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‘Unintended consequences’: Why West Virginia’s landmark chemical tank safety legislation matters

Commercial Photography Services of West Virginia

August 28, 2014
Sustained Outrage blog post by Ken Ward Jr.

The pressure continues to build on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to call a special session so West Virginia can walk back the landmark chemical tank safety and public drinking water law that miraculously made its way through the Legislature in the wake of January’s Freedom Industries spill and the Kanawha Valley water crisis that followed…


Posted in Bayer CropScience, Bhopal disaster, chemical, chemical disaster, chemical safety, Chemical Safety Board, Chemical Safety Improvement Act, chemical safety regulation, Chemical Valley, DuPont, emergency response, environmental health, EPA, EPCRA, Executive Order 13650, fenceline community, Institute, Kanawha River, Ken Ward Jr., MCHM, methyl isocyanate, MIC, Poverty and Chemical Disasters, right-to-know, Risk Management Plans, Sustained Outrage, toxic, toxic exposure, Toxic Substance Control Act, TSCA, Wasting Our Waterways, water quality, Who's in Danger?: Race, worker fatality, WV Water Crisis | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

CDC: No WV health officials specifically trained for chemical disaster

August 19, 2014
by Dave Boucher, Charleston Daily Mail
Capitol Notebook Blog

None of West Virginia’s state public health officials were trained to respond to a chemical disaster at the time of the recent massive chemical leak and water contamination, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
West Virginia doesn’t have any state health officials specifically trained in responding to chemical disasters like the one that happened at Freedom Industries in January, according to a new federal report…

Read the full blog post at

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