It is no debate that climate change affects citizens of the world globally. When it comes to combating these harmful impacts locally, Chesapeake’s Sierra Club focuses its environmental advocacy in the Norfolk area.On April 14, Norfolk residents participated in a discussion forum concerning coal dust impacts on local neighborhoods. The Sierra Club Chesapeake Bay Group, Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) and ODU’s EcoReps sponsored the event.Norfolk is home to the Lambert’s Point Coal terminal, one of the world’s largest coal transportation facilities that transfers up to 48 million tons of coal per year. Area residents expressed their need for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to more accurately assess the health and environmental impacts of coal dust in Norfolk.Leslie Morrison, a campaign director with CCAN, explained less coal is being used in America because of a growing awareness of its environmental effects. As such, tougher regulations have forced companies to start exporting more coal to Europe and Asia.As part of her healthy community campaign, Morrison works specifically with the “regulatory side of the clean energy crisis.”Coal dust problems are most harmful to human health in the residential areas of transport, according to CCANSierra Club fact sheets suggest that significant amounts of coal dust “blow over into neighborhoods and agricultural areas, polluting waterways, crops and the air we breath”.Virginia health studies report that in communities where coal terminals are present, a higher number of residents suffer from asthma, increased infant mortality rates and decreased life expectancies.A study published in 2007 by William Bounds of ODU’s Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences and Karen Johannesson of Tulane University reveals some startling truths. Soil samples were collected in Norfolk to “examine the extent to which arsenic and coal are deposited into local soil.”The weight of coal present in the soil ranges from under 1 to 20 percent. Total arsenic concentration in the soil ranged from 3 to 30.5 milligrams per kilogram of soil.The 2007 study documented toxic coal dust contamination in Norfolk, stating that the Lambert’s Point terminal transfers “28+ million tons of coal annually from trains to ships, releasing about 50 tons/100,000 lbs of coal dust into the air each year”.Residents complained of the black grit commonly coating cars, windowsills, and crops. The study also showed that soil samples contained up to 20 percent coal by weight at a site 2.2 miles from the Lambert docks.Each step in the process of coal transportation leaves its own hazardous footprint. Companies move the coal in open-top rail cars and store them in piles, some of which sit idle for days, before they are dumped onto ships for exportation. These rail cars– with the help of elemental winds– release what Morrison refers to as “fugitive coal dust”.Harmful toxins such as arsenic, mercury and lead are also carried by wind and disperse across long distances.