Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mountain Top Removal?

I went to Whitesville, West Virginia two weeks ago to visit Kayford Mountain, one of more than 470 mountains destroyed by mountain top removal. Mountain top removal is a mining process that literally removes the top 800 - 1,000 feet of mountains to reach the seams of coal within. The trees and rocks are stripped and excess debris, called overburdin, is dumped into the surrounding valleys on top of streams and rivers (called valley fill). Over 1400 miles of rivers and streams have been completely burried. Then slurry, the toxic sludge created during processing the coal, is placed behind a dam. These are basically lakes that contain thousands of tons of toxic sludge.

In year 2000 one of these dams breached in KY, flooding the community of Buffalo Creek with more than 300 million gallons of toxic sludge. 150 people died, 1,100 were injured, and over 4,000 left homeless. This is more than 30 times the size of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, yet did you ever hear about this? EPA called it the worst environmental disaster in the southeast ever.

Economically devastating for communities, as it is a job that only needs 9 people to accomplish.

[can you tell I've had to memorize this for presentations to classes?]

Check this out:

Here are the photos from my visit to the Coal River Valley:

The gang and our accommodations -- Coal River Mountain Watch headquarters in Whitesville

Larry Gibson, life-time resident and activist, is the last person who lives in his hollow on Kayford Mnt. Larry explains to us what we are about to see. Notice the sign and clearing behind him--this is a 800 foot drop off in his back yard (only stopped there because of his family cemetary).

Where your energy comes from

I'll close with this photo. The grave is of a mining boy who died at age 14 in the mine. It reads:
"Death Has No Sorrow That Heavan Cannot Heal"