West Virginia a Coal and Chemical Chernobyl

I sent this as part of a letter to the editor of Friends of Nigeria, a newsletter of former Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Nigeria.
On January 9, 2014, 10,000 gallons of coal-cleaning chemical spilled into the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia where I live. The air and water smelled like licorice and almost two months later, we don’t drink or cook with tap water. I take only one very quick shower per week–the first one made my eyes burn. Not too long after the chemical spill there was a huge black coal waste sludge mess leaked into a creek nearby.
Apropos of these environmental disasters,I found this quote in Jim Hightower’s Lowdown newsletter; “…the water won’t ever clear up until you get the hogs out of the creek.”
In my family’s eighth generation in West Virginia, I have witnessed: mountain top removal strip mining for coal behead 500 mountains; natural gas fracking destroy ground water and habitat for humans and other animals and organisms; long wall underground coal mining cause homes, barns, streams and other surface areas to tilt, shift and crack; schools of dead fish, white belly’s up, drift by our home on the Kanawha River; all the white houses in our neighborhood turn black as the sulfur in the rotten egg smelling air reacted with the lead in the paint; my father blinded in one eye in an underground coal mining accident; and my coal miner father-in-law die with Black Lung.
All of this has happened with much opposition and warning from environmental groups, of which I am a part.Our state, with the cooperation of sold out politicians, has become like a third-world Coal and Chemical Chernobyl.
Find some of that history in West Virginia History in Op-eds and Letters to the Editor: 1964-2014 http://wildwonderfulwv.us/julian/. And for more commentary see my blog: The News From Sam’s Branch http://samsbranch.me. And coming soon on Amazon.com: The Soviet Union and Lincoln County USA, a memoir of my 22 years teaching in Lincoln County, West Virginia.

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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