I got the news about the chemical spill last night from my sister, who cannot drink water or bathe right now. I have many friends and family members in the same. And I am so so angry. But I can’t say that I’m surprised.
Big Coal has been poisoning the water and the land of Appalachia for years. And it has to stop. These companies MUST be held accountable to the people of West Virginia. Please sign this petition.
Read more about the spill here.
And pass on this info about water distribution centers for affected WV residents. (Also, please report any price gouging on water or ice to the state Attorney General!)
On a slightly more positive note, the company responsible for the leak, Freedom Industries, has been issued a Cease Operations Order by the WV Dept. of Environmental Protection. Of course this doesn’t mean they will get shut down. These companies never do. But it will at least slow them down for a while.
I’ve worked with so many activist group throughout the years (since 2007, actually) that are against coal.
What people don’t realize about WV is the fact that our water, air and land is being constantly poisoned because of coal waste and chemicals used to clean and treat coal for burning, not to mention the mere burning of coal itself. The chemical leak on Thursday was just one of the biggest leaks we’ve had in recent years. Going all over the state to various towns and communities that surround coal plants is very eyeopening. Creeks and streams are being polluted with coal waste and coal chemicals. So are wells, which a lot of people in the state get their water from wells (especially in the more southern counties, which also have have a higher presence of the coal industry). Filters that are used with wells should last about a year, have to be replaced monthly due to the abundance of chemicals in their water.
While I can’t argue that coal offers West Virginians jobs in an otherwise lacking job market, it’s killing our families and our land… for profit. And the last time I checked, the argument that Big Coal employs a majority of West Virginians is false. Walmart, Kroger and CAMC (a hospital chain in the Kanawha valley) employ more people in WV than Big Coal. And that’s not combined, either. That’s separately. In a state that is inhabited by 1.8 million people, Big Coal only accounted for about 3% of the jobs in WV. People would have you assume that jobs in WV are dependent upon coal. Yes, losing 3% of jobs in one sitting would be fairly disastrous, but if coal is gradually shut down and other means of energy production are brought in, we could easily avoid losing that 3% of jobs and replace them with a more sustainable and safer means of energy.
People always compare the “glory” days of WV coal to today. Many years ago, the coal industry wasn’t exactly a leader in modern innovation, almost everything done had to have some sort of human element to it. People who don’t think like to attribute dwindling jobs in the coal industry to liberals, EPA regulations, the DEP, etc, etc. What they fail to realize is that the modernization of the coal industry happened and fewer and fewer bodies were required to produce coal. As with ANY industry, it’s more cost effective to “hire” machines than it is to hire people. If anyone is to blame for the dwindling numbers that coal employs, it’s the coal industry itself. The coal industry is one of the most dirtiest, corrupt and money hungry industries in the US.
Big Coal is—shocker—purely for profit. They have government officials in their dirty pockets, and have for years upon years. They have no consideration for the people impacted.
Very few people have heard of Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV. They plopped a MTR (mountain top removal) mine not even 400 yards uphill of Marsh Fork Elementary. Marsh Fork’s playground was literally the backyard to one of WV’s largest coal sludge impoundments, which holds 2.8 billion gallons of coal sludge by a 385-foot earthen dam. I’ve visited the old Marsh Fork before and it was truly terrifying to see just how close it was to the children in that school.
Over the better part of a decade, protests and rallies formed, protesting the presence of this MTR site. In 2005, talks of a second coal silo at the site were underway, and while the DEP initially refused to allow the site to construct a new silo, Massey supporters and employees were able to successfully argue the economical benefits of the plant, and the WV Supreme Court ruled in favor of building the second silo in 2009. After years and years of peaceful protests, rallies and just down right begging to the state, a new, safer Marsh Fork Elementary broke ground in the latter part of 2011 and finally opened its doors for classes in January 2013.
Another slightly irking fact about “The Chemical Valley” is the fact that there’s a very alarming concentration of auto-immune diseases in the Kanawha area. I don’t know if anyone has stopped to think about it, but it does raise eyebrows that SO many people in the Kanawha area have auto-immune diseases. To put things into perspective, the Kanawha area is home to one of the world’s largest coal-burning power plants (The John Amos plant, located in Winfield and situated right along the Kanawha River), countless other chemical plants (Dow, DuPont, Clearon, FMC, etc) and coal mines.
While the MCHM leak at Freedom Industries is not a direct fault of the coal industry, the chemical MCHM is used to clean coal. This terrifying event is an excellent way to bring to light just what goes into the coal industry. A good way to bring to light just how many other areas have to deal with small leaks contaminating their water and air, daily. I don’t know how many times we’ve had shelter in place scares and small leaks. If you research just how many “mishaps” happen per year here, you’d be alarmed. Granted, not all of them are as monumental as the one on Thursday, but you still have to sit and wonder what all these spills and leaks and explosions are doing to the air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground our children play in.