UPDATE: I since learned that Massey Energy has pledged $1 million for the construction of a new school because of the danger. I understand that part of the reason they did this was that they wanted to build another coal processing facility there close to the one that is right by the school. So, this is a victory of sorts for anti-coal activists and parents of the school children.
I couldn't help but notice that the CNN anchor John Roberts is situated in front of Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia as he reports about the coal mine disaster that has already taken 25 lives. This is the same school where a coal slurry dam sits right above it. I went to my files and found these photos (courtesy Vivian Stockman of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition).
Coal Slurry Dam above Marsh Fork Elementary School
An earthen dam is all that keep the coal slurry pond from sliding down the mountain and burying the elemenatary school. This is the same type of pond that spilled in Tennessee in December 2008.
Coal Slurry Pond above Marsh Fork
The pond has a capacity of 8 billion gallons of coal slurry and is one of 400 in West Virginia.
Activists have tried to get the mainstream media to cover the story so that the school might be moved to a safer location. So, it's ironic that while the media covers the tragic coal mining accident, they ignore the potential disaster that is right above them.
As one who has worked as an activist against mountaintop removal coal mining, it's frustrating to see the coverage. The media does cover the inherent dangers of coal mining and the fact that the miners have little other job opportunities. But, the coverage always stops there without asking the important questions:
Why are coal mining areas some of the poorest in the country?
Why do people who live in coal mining areas have the poorest health in the country with high cancer and heart disease rates?