They found 196 tons of contaminated soil which contained high levels of several dangerous substances, such as mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium. The source of the chemicals, Hall believes, is a gas well that the company maintained adjacent to her property since the 1940s had probably been leaking for decades.
Hall suspected that there could be a connection between the leaks and several events in her life, which included the deaths of her only two children. She decided to do some research.
Her son, Azzie Hall Jr., died two days after his birth, before she got a chance to hold him. Her daughter was a child at the time. The family had moved to Michigan to be nearer her husband's work for several years. but returned to their Kentucky home when their daughter Roxanne was 10. Two years later she developed vision problems. A Pikeville physician diagnosed their daughter with a tumor that was pressing on her optic nerve. Surgery and three years of radiation treatments followed but Roxanne died in 1982 at age 15.
Hall was researching the effects of the dangerous substances that were found in her yard when she recalled a significant fact. Her daughter once had a full head of hair which reached her waist. Hall was heartbroken when Roxanne decided she wanted to have it cut, but that didn't stop her from letting her daughter follow through on her wishes. She sentimentally decided to save the locks as a keepsake.
Hall took the locks of her daughter's hair she had saved and sent them out to the Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory to be tested. The tests, which were completed on April 29, 2003, found high levels of dangerous substances which naturally occur in the body at much lower levels. Toxic elements such as antimony, arsenic, lead, cadmium, tin, nickel and mercury were all higher than normal and had reduced the acceptable range of many healthy minerals in Roxanne's body.
Hall is on a quest now to draw attention to the dumping of toxic substances. She fears that her voice will be quieted once this process reaches the legal system and wants to raise awareness for people who may be living as she did without knowing what is under their soil.
"I'm sharing my story for one reason - to cause people to realize that there is danger, sometimes even in your yard," Hall said.
Hall recalled doing a fair amount of yard work before her son was born and often coming back into the house feeling like her feet were on fire. She recalled that she and her husband were constantly sick when they lived there.
Kentucky and West Virginia Gas could not offer a person on site to discuss Hall's case, but they were able to provide The Times with someone to speak with at Equitable Gas, the parent company, at their Pittsburgh office.
David Spiegelmeyer said that mercury was found at the site and was once used to measure the volume of gas that was passing through a well. He confirmed that the gas meter on the property was excavated two years ago and a hundred tons of soil was removed. He was not aware of other toxic substances on the site other than mercury.
Spiegelmeyer also noted that the house and shed on the property were deemed safe by an independent contractor. Three representatives of the state were also on site when soil sampling was done after the excavation, at which time there were no unsafe substances found.
Spiegelmeyer said he could not speculate as to whether Hall would have been exposed to mercury while doing yard work. The 2002 survey was conducted when they first became aware of mercury through sampling. These operations were done alongside the Division of Waste Management, which was closed for the weekend by the time Equitable contacted The Times.
Hall is anxious to hear from anyone who has had a similar experience or fears that they might already be exposed to toxic elements in their soil. She can be reached by mail at P.O. Box 207, Harold, KY 41635.