Ready for the journey: Shepherdstown environmental activist to walk across Denmark
SHEPHERDSTOWN — For many, having a thyroid gland die at age 21 and then contracting cancer in their right hip, requiring a hemipelvectomy, might stop them from living an active lifestyle. But for Shepherdstown resident Tracy Danzey, the potential culprit behind her physical challenges is the reason she can now be seen walking around Shepherdstown with her forearm crutches and remaining, left leg.
“I grew up in Parkersburg. Dupont dumped their C8 in the city waters. I swam in the rivers all the time, I kayaked, I was a competitive swimmer, so I spent all of my time in the water,” Danzey said in a Sept. 18 phone interview. “One of the known results of C8 exposure, is that your thyroid stops functioning. In 2001, my thyroid stopped functioning. That same year, my dog developed osteosarcoma in a hip and died. Five years later, I developed osteosarcoma. In my case, we were very aggressive with the cancer, from 2005-2007.”
Danzey moved to Shepherdstown in 1998 to study nursing at Shepherd University, and, for all but two years, has lived here. She never went to court with Dupont, because she had already moved on with her life, with her husband and son.
When she was fighting the osteosarcoma, she relied heavily on the Shepherdstown community for support. Now, she believes she has found her way of returning that favor.
“It’s easy to focus on [Dupont], but they’ve already done the deed. What we need to focus on is Rockwool,” Danzey said. “They’re putting in retaining ponds, who knows what’s going to be in that area, and they’re putting in aquifers.
“Dupont developed holes in their retaining pools, which leaked into system. They then started pouring the C8 right into the Ohio River,” Danzey said. “For me, I see the same set-up. I’m not saying Rockwool would do things that would cause my cancer. But they’re setting up the same environmental disasters that caused my cancer. Much of what they’re working with in heavy industry is not regulated yet. Some of their waste products, the laws haven’t caught up to the chemistry.
“For me, Jefferson County is one of the last hold-outs in West Virginia. We have no reason to destroy our environment with heavy industry, to destroy our view with heavy industry – there’s nothing in it for us,” Danzey said. “I just have to fight for the people that have fought for me. And I have to fight for West Virginia!”
Danzey’s fight will take place this October, when she will fly to Denmark, with a few fellow Resist Rockwool activists. Rockwool’s international headquarters are in Copenhagen, which will be one of many stops Danzey plans to take, as she walks across the country.
“My mission is to use my body as a teaching tool for Danes,” Danzey said. “I know Danes understand what heavy industry does to people. But we’ve got a lot of information back that the Danes don’t believe what Rockwool’s doing here, because Rockwool doesn’t do that in Denmark, and Danish companies tend to follow Danish regulations outside of Denmark.
“I want to show people that the Danish people and the Danish government aren’t intending to condone the exportation of their heavy industry,” Danzey said. “I have an immense amount of respect for the Danes, because they have been world leaders in reducing a country’s environmental footprint. I believe if they see the evidence of what Rockwool is planning to do, that they would advocate for us, and that they would oppose the concept as well.”
Danzey will walk for five to seven miles a day, which she estimates to be a total 70-mile hike. To donate, visit the “Tracy’s Walk” GoFundMe page.