Poisoned Water From The Coal Industry

The real cost of coal drifts down the Elk River and is sucked into our water supply. This is Sunday and since Thursday around 300,000 people in eight West Virginia counties have been warned not to use the water coming out of their spigots for drinking, bathing, washing clothes, washing dishes, mixing baby formula…don’t touch the stuff, just flush your commode and put out fires with what used to be water coming into your home and hope the stuff isn’t flammable.  

A company that provides chemicals to the coal industry, has the clever euphemistic name of “Freedom Industries,” and has poisoned our water with 4-methyl-cyclohexanemethanol aka “Crude MCHM”. Now the news sources say it is “mostly” Crude MCHM, what else we are getting is a guess.

Our water has a funny smell, some say it smells like licorice. It was that same smell in the air that caused nearby residents to report the problem—Freedom Industries and the so-called Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hadn’t noticed. Most West Virginians, who don’t make money from coal production, understand that the DEP is a subsidiary of the coal industry.

The stuff in our water is a gift from the coal industry, their gifts keep on giving. The harm done is another cost of coal that the coal industry never pays. Restaurants are shut down, day care facilities are closed, folks sick and old in hospitals and other facilities cannot be bathed with water coming out of the spigots and of course they can’t drink it.

Hold up your hand if you think the coal industry will ever pay for the damage they have done to businesses and the environment. They have blown West Virginia mountains to stumps and filled our streams with millions of tons of coal waste coming from mountain top removal strip mining.

People living in the coal mining areas, and especially those near mountain top removal strip mining, have a higher incidence of terrible diseases than folks living in other parts of the state.

Huge coal trucks tear up state roads—amazingly those trucks are too heavy to travel on interstate highways but our legislature welcomes them on state roads and bridges not built for huge trucks.

Forests are being destroyed and streams in other states and Canada are being rendered sterile from the stuff coming out of smokestacks where coal is being burned to make “cheap” electricity. And our lungs were not made to filter out that same pollution from coal burning power plants.

Will Freedom Industries pay the restaurant employees for the work days they are missing? Will they absorb the financial loss of the restaurant owners? Will they pay for the “free” bottled water being provided by the state government? Will they reimburse the National Guard for flying water in from Maryland? Will they get on their knees and ask our forgiveness?

The true cost of coal does not appear in the price of coal. Coal is called a source of cheap energy—it ain’t cheap.

And will the Freedom Industry facility be forced to shut down and quit operating just one mile upstream from the intake pipes for our water. Will our coal infested state politicians have the guts to do that?

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to Amazon.com to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (wvhighlands.org), and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation (ksff.org). I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at martinjul@aol.com or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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One Response to Poisoned Water From The Coal Industry

  1. sigiocom says:

    Julian, I shared your blog post on Google+ just now. Russia Today has also been sharing their reports on the situation in social media.

    I feel for your plight. It simply reinforces the urgency of breaking our culture’s addiction to fossil fuels.

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