Responsibly serving the world's coal needs

Lamberts Point ship at Pier 6

the facts about Lamberts Point Coal Terminal

Located in Norfolk, Virginia, on the Elizabeth River, Lamberts Point has operated since 1885, loading ocean-going vessels with Appalachian coal used to forge steel that supports economic growth in the U.S. and countries worldwide.

To ensure that operations are safe and environmentally responsible, NS has voluntarily adopted innovative practices to minimize impacts to the environment and neighborhoods that have grown around the 425-acre terminal. In addition, NS is a long-time participant in community efforts to restore water quality on the heavily industrialized Elizabeth River.



Norfolk Southern has taken substantial steps to reduce the amount of coal dust at Lamberts Point and has monitored particulate levels for over 30 years. The results have been consistent and conclusive: Dust from Lamberts Point does not pose a health threat to neighboring communities based on federal environmental standards that set thresholds to protect human health and the environment.

In 2015, Norfolk Southern began a robust, yearlong air-quality study with the involvement and oversight of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

The study involved monitoring the air around Lamberts Point for tiny particles of dust known as PM10 – particulate matter that is 10 micrometers and smaller. PM10 is monitored because it includes small particles that could penetrate into the lungs. Because of this, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set a national ambient air quality standard for PM10 of 150 micrograms per cubic meter.

Data collected during the study showed that the highest concentration of PM10 was 40.21 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The average concentration ranged from 14.46 to 17.58 micrograms per cubic meter, depending on the monitoring location.

These results are well below the national air quality standard of 150 micrograms per cubic meter established by the EPA to protect human health and the environment.

As a responsible corporate neighbor, NS continues to monitor the air quality at Lamberts Point. 



In July 2017, the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Environmental Epidemiology concluded that exposure to PM10 near the sampling sites is not expected to harm people’s health.

Dwight Flammia, Virginia public health toxicologist, outlines the department’s examination of the latest air-monitoring study in a letter to the Norfolk City Health District. Read the letter on the City of Norfolk’s website.

In December 2016, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality issued Norfolk Southern a letter stating that the railroad had satisfied requirements of the yearlong study. VDEQ stated the results were accurate and did not exceed the air-quality standard. Read the letter.


Multiple studies show coal dust at Lamberts Point
is not a health threat

Norfolk Southern has conducted multiple studies of coal dust at Lamberts Point since the 1980s. All of the studies have shown conclusively that the levels of coal dust at the facility pose no harm to the environment or human health.

1986-1989: NS conducted studies in cooperation with the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board, predecessor of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Four ambient air monitors installed near Lamberts Point were sampled for total suspended particles and coal percentage. Most of the dust detected was not coal.

1988: In addition to air monitoring, dust wipe samples taken from residences in neighborhoods adjacent to Lamberts Point were collected and analyzed. Most of the dust was not from coal.

1994 to present: In 1994, additional ambient air monitoring was conducted at four sites adjacent to Lamberts Point. NS continues to operate one of the four air monitors. It is located at the Hampton Roads Sanitation District treatment plant adjacent to Lamberts Point. The air-monitoring results for particulate matter are compared with the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The data show that the air quality is well within the national standards.

1996-1998: NS conducted an informal “dust fall” study, placing oil-coated slides in 20 locations near Lamberts Point. Microscopic analysis revealed that the majority of the dust collected was soot, tire rubber, and diesel particles.


Lamberts Point Q&A

How many people work at Lamberts Point?

Norfolk Southern employs about 400 people at the coal terminal.

How is the coal stored at Lamberts Point?

The coal is stored in rail cars until it is transferred to ships. Lamberts Point does not have storage piles or open storage of coal.

How is the coal transferred to ships?

Loaded coal cars are pushed into one of two dumpers that rotate the cars to unload the coal onto conveyer belts. The rotary dumpers are equipped with a sprinkler system that sprays each car with water and a dust suppressant agent. The conveyor belts transfer the coal to the shiploaders located at the pier.

Where does the coal originate, where does it go, and how is it used?

The coal originates from mines in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. It is mostly low-sulfur, low-ash metallurgical coal that goes to steel manufacturers in nearly three dozen countries, primarily in Europe, South America, and Asia.

Why can’t NS enclose the coal dumpers?

NS has evaluated the possibility of enclosing the dumpers several times in the past. We have determined that an enclosure is not technically feasible because of the way the rotary tandem dumpers were designed in 1962.

Ways NS voluntarily controls dust at Lamberts Point:

  • Loaded coal cars are sprayed with water and a dust suppression agent as the cars are overturned in dumpers to transfer the coal to conveyor belts.
  • Hoods and wind guards shield conveyor belts that carry coal to the shiploaders.
  • Sprinklers hold down dust at conveyor belt transfer points.
  • Vacuum trucks sweep coal from the Pier 6 deck. NS in 2017 purchased a new sweep truck to enhance operations.

Toll-free coal dusting report line:

Since 1993, NS has made available a hotline to report coal dust complaints, 800-621-0772. 

A 'River Star' business

From recycling stormwater to control dust to raising baby oysters near Pier 6, Norfolk Southern is committed to environmentally responsible operations at Lamberts Point, earning recognition as a “River Star” business.

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