Views from Southwest Virginia

Joan K

Joan K
Southwest, Virginia, USA
I'm a retired professor from Virginia Tech living the good life in the Appalachian mountains with my husband, a dog, and two cats along with lots of wildlife. I love reading, commenting and posting on Open Salon. Long live OS!


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APRIL 6, 2010 10:07AM

The Other West Virginia Coal Mining Disaster

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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). 


  pond above school

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.

Media Coverage 

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? 



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Great Story Joan. Thanks for posting this.
No one wants to ask those questions, Joan. Way too many of us are dependent on coal to maintain our lifestyles.
Kudos for THIS. We can hear all about the "tragedy" of yesterday on all the major news outlets -- we will not hear about the consistent safety violations Massey has been charged with -- at affordable rates! They call it "clean coal".

And when that slurry slides into the school -- it will again be called an "accident."
Everyone--thanks for visiting my blog. I haven't posted in awhile and it's good to read the comments.

OEsheepdog--thanks for commenting.

Jeanette--yes, I too use electricity which is generated by coal but wish I had an alternative.

skeletwmn--yes, like the TN spill, any disaster involving coal mining is always called an accident.