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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Blasting Set to Begin Beside World's Largest Toxic Coal Sludge Dam

Activists Blockade Efforts to Begin Mountaintop Removal and Blasting Beside World's Largest Toxic Coal Sludge Dam

Originally posted at and Front Porch blog

Please help save Coal River Mountain! Call Governor Manchin at 1-888-438-2731 and / or use our simple web form to email the governor.

Blasting Operation Endangers Community, Destroys Wind Energy Potential

Citizens of the Coal River Valley, accompanied by supporters from throughout Appalachia and supported by national allies incuding James Hansen, are blocking access to prepare Coal River Mountain for blasting. The blasting would be dangerously near to a nine-billion-gallon toxic coal sludge dam. Massey has begun work on a mountaintop removal operation on Coal River Mountain, with plans to blast over underground mines beside the sludge dam. Residents are advocating for a wind farm on the site as a safe alternative for cleaner energy and long-term jobs.

"The governor and county legislators have failed to act, so we're acting for them," Rory McIlmoil said. "Someone has to take a stand for common sense. They can't allow the wind potential on Coal River Mountain to be destroyed, and the nearby communities endangered, for only 17 years of coal. There is a better way to develop the mountain and strengthen the local economy that will create lasting jobs and tax revenues for this county, and that's with wind power."

"I fear for my friends and all the people living below this coal sludge dam," said Gary Anderson, who lives near the site. "Blasting beside the dam, over underground mines, could decimate the valley for miles. The 'experts' said that the Buffalo Creek sludge dam was safe, but it failed. They said that the TVA sludge dam was safe, but it failed. Massey is setting up an even greater catastrophe here."

In 1972, a sludge dam operated by Pittston Coal Company failed and killed 125 people in Buffalo Creek, W.Va. In 2000, a sludge dam operated by Massey Energy in Martin County, Ky., released approximately 300 million gallons of coal waste that broke through into underground mines. The EPA called that the worst environmental disaster in the Southeast. Then, in December 2008, a coal ash sludge impoundment operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) failed near Harriman, Tenn. That disaster released over one billion gallons of toxic sludge that destroyed three homes, damaged twelve more and covered 300 acres.

Residents have lost faith in their state government and taken their plea nationally. Climate expert James Hansen, the head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said, "President Obama, please look at Coal River Mountain. Your strongest supporters are counting on you to stop this madness."

"We can't sit by while Massey jeopardizes the lives and homes of thousands of people," said Vernon Haltom of Naoma. "Governor Manchin and the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection have proven that they are unwilling to protect the citizens. What do they expect us to do? Will they wait until we're in body bags to take this threat seriously?" A 2008 report by the federal Office of Surface Mining revealed serious deficiencies in the WVDEP's regulation of coal waste dams ( In November, WVDEP approved a permit revision allowing Massey to begin the mountaintop removal operation. Despite citizens' objections, DEP denied public participation in its decision process.

Anderson added, "We need to stop the madness and stop Massey from blowing up our beautiful mountain. We need to go with the better energy option, and that's a wind farm, which is perfect for Coal River Mountain. We could have a green energy future for the country, starting right here."

For updates, photos and video footage, go to

See related stories and posts:

  • "Coal River Mountain can't wait", by Jim Biggers at Grist
  • "Anti-coal activists chain themselves to equipment at Massey operation," from WV Gazette
  • Archives of Tennessee Coal Sludge Disaster (Kingston TVA Spill)

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