Monday, April 28, 2008

Appalachia: How Isolated?

Appalachia is just a few hundred miles from Delaware, but in some respects it seems like another world.
Mary Ann Hitt of the advocacy organization Appalachian Voices described the scourge of mountaintop removal mining to a gathering of the Delaware Sierra Club on Saturday. That's an aerial photo of what used to be a mountain behind her.
The large scale destruction of mountains takes place among sparsely settled valley communities. Some of the coal from one mine is burned in the Hay Road power plant operated by Conectiv Energy. Most of the rest is burned in the Ohio Valley, contributing to acid rain, particulate matter and other environmental problems affecting the entire east coast. This is why some are opposing the proposed Mid Atlantic Power Pathway; it would make it easier to ship electricity generated in dirty coal power plants from the Ohio Valley to the east coast.
But the people of Appalachia face the worst hazards of mountaintop removal.
Here's what the people who live downstream of the mine that provides coal to Conectiv worry about:
"What concerns many Ragland residents the most is the slag dam near the top of the mountains. It stretches nearly three football fields across and is twice as long. Originally it was about 140 feet deep. But waste coal covers the bottom, so the water depth is considerably less. The watery dump was used for nearly 30 years until it reached capacity a few years ago.
"Since the dam sits nearly a mile off the road and is reachable only on four wheelers and steep roads, those just passing through wouldn’t know it exists. But for the Ragland residents, it lies above the community, a dark watery reminder of the tragedy at Buffalo Creek. The community has been evacuated at least once because of concerns that the dam would break."
Buffalo Creek was a community devastated by the failure of a similar slag dam.
The people who live in Appalachia have little voice in what is being done to the landscapes surrounding their homes. But those of us who use the power generated by this horrific practice can speak up. For more information, you can go to, plug in your zip code and learn that Appalachia is not so isolated from Delaware as we thought.


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