Mountain Top Removal, sometimes refered to as “stripmining on steroids” is the extreme process of blowing off the top of a mountain to get to coal in a fast, efficient way.  In the meantime, the debris is being blown in the valleys and destroying and contaminating rivers, causing environmental problems and health problems for the people living near the mines.  The two issues that struck me the most were, the school with the children who have increased breathing problems and the picture of the boy in front of his sink with completely brown water flowing from the faucet. 

Marsh Fork Elementary School is located in Raleigh County, just 150 feet from a coal silo.  Parents are concerned that the dust and chemicals used to mine and clean the coal are settling in the school grounds.  Also, close to the school, there is a dam holding billions of gallons of coal sludge.  Many heavy metals occur natually in coal and coal sludge, such as Aluminum, Arsenic, Mercury, Lead, and Cadmium, to name a few.    People who ingest high levels of aluminum dust have lung problems.  Children with kidney problems have high levels of aluminum in their treatments, often develop bone diseases.  High levels of arsenic cause nausea, vomiting, decrease production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm and can cause death.  Evidence shows that children exposed to arsenic have lower IQ scores.  Exposure to mercury, affects the nervous system, can change vision and or hearing and causes memory loss.  Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning which effects a child’s mental and physical growth. Breathing high levels of cadmium can damage the lungs, cause cancer since they’re carcinogens, and cause kidney and bone damage.  Again, these are just a few naturally occuring metals in coal and coal sludge.  The children attenting Marsh Fork Elementary are being exposed to all of these problems.  I think that it’s a good idea to move the school, but I think it needs to be done faster before it’s too late. 

The coal sludge is another concern for the people of Raliegh County. What if the dam falls?  Protesters have shown up at the gate of Brushy Fork Dam with hundreds of shoes to represent the number of immediate deaths should the dam fall.  The Marsh Fork Elementary School included.  “If the dam fails, 7.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry will flood to 38 feet deep, 26 miles down the Marsh Fork of the Coal River, from Pettus, past Whitesville,” Mike Roselle of Climate Ground Zero said. “These coal companies, the land companies and their corrupt politicians are destroying the headwater streams that supply drinking water to millions of Americans downstream.”

This leads to the second thing that really struck me; the polluting of all the waterways.  The family in the picture below said they used to have sweet and pure water, but now it runs rusty orange or black at times, with lots of particulate. They believe the polluted water is caused by the coal slurry, which is produced when coal is cleaned and washed with water and chemicals.  They think that the slurry flows through channels of rock layers and infects their water wells.  The blowing up of the mountain tops are also sending debris into the valleys and rivers.  The West Virginia residents shouldn’t be the only ones worried about this because we all live “downstream” and it’s going to effect us in one way or another. 

Coarse waste rock is used to construct the dam at Brushy Fork

Coal provides us with electricity and also supplies many people with jobs.  It takes alot of people to mine coal and is essential for a state like West Virginia.  Mountain Top Removal is destroying the mountains, putting many endanger and destroying our environment.  I think that coal mining is not only a job, but a way of life for these people and to take that away is taking alot more than just a career.  Until they can find another source of energy, West Virginia will always have to mine coal, so why not do it in a way that will atleast help the people?  I totally disagree with Mountain Top Removal and hope that something is done soon.  I think that the protesters, who are being directly affected by Mountain Top Removal have alot of courage to stand up to such a powerful company.  I also respect the politicans who are basically ruining their chances of re-election in order to save the mountains, people, and prosperity of West Virginia.