By Christina Fermin
Politics & Society Columnist
When I first decided to write about Mountain Top Removal (MTR), I was reminded about it in a documentary I watched recently called Dirt! The Movie (can you URL to the website http://www.dirtthemovie.org/). What I did not expect was the heart wrenching stories that I would read as a direct result of MTR. It was so overwhelming that it literally took me days to read through the material and get the facts. Often times I was so emotional and angry that this practice is allowed, that I hope I can convey what I read in those pieces of information onto here. The effects of MTR go beyond destroying mountains, forests, wildlife and water. Communities are left to suffer the after effects which can lasts for decades, if not centuries, and those that suffer the most are the children who carry the burden and health effects of MTR.
For those who are not familiar with Mountain Top Removal Mining, it is a coal extraction process which requires the complete removal of mountain peaks through a process of clearing all top soil and vegetation; blasting of the tops of mountains by millions of pounds of explosives; digging with a very large machine 20 stories high which has been used to replace hundreds of jobs. Once all this is done, the coal goes through to processing so that it can be cleaned before being shipped where the coal is cleaned using over ten different types of toxic chemicals producing coal sludge which more often then not the companies involved house them in large pools that contaminates ground water and the land itself; while everything else gets dumped into valleys and streams. Then comes reclamation which is used to stabilize and revegetate the region, which because state agencies are in bed with energy companies, the energy companies usually don’t do more than spraying of seeds so that grasslands can form where there once stood mountains and thick dense forests.
Mountain Top Removal happens in the Appalachian mountains in mainly Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. This region is a hotspot for biodiversity and the nation’s drinking water. The Appalachian mountains are even older than those of the Himalayans, and what takes thousands of millions of years to form and grow gets blasted in a matter of days. Today over 2,300 square miles (the area the size of Delaware) of the appalachian forests have been destroyed and over 1,500 miles of streams have been contaminated due to MTR. In the communities where MTR has been permitted poverty and unemployment remains very high, trying to get business to come into a community that has been destroyed by MTR is difficult because of all the health issues and pollution that can occur near a MTR site. Not to mention that the coal extracted from the process often gets shipped across the country to be used in states which MTR occurs.
The effects of MTR are grossly underestimated, recently a panel of scientist completed a study and what they found is grounds enough to make the practice illegal. MTR has killed off fish, decimated the fish populations and now they are endangered of being killed off completely. When testing the rivers and streams, toxic levels were well above normal, in many cases over twice the limit they should be. 40-70% of the wells by or near a MTR site have been contaminated. In 2004 a 3 year old boy was killed by a large boulder that came barreling down a hill into the family home because of MTR. Flyrock, which happens as a result of the blasting, damages property, homes and injuries residence. Flash floods happens as a result of the natural landscape being transformed so that it can no longer hold in the water as the forests did in the past. In communities where MTR sites are close by, these communities have suffered high mortality rates, high cancer rates, diabetes and heart disease.
So what can you do? Most importantly write to your Congress person, have them support the Clean Water Protection Act and Support the Appalachia Restore Act. Write to your energy companies condoning the practice; companies like Massey Energy, Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, International Coal Group and Teco Energy. Also write to the companies financing MTR; companies include Bank of America, Citigroup, Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, PNC Bank, UBS, and Wells Fargo. Also as a mode of protest, remove your money from those banks, I find Credit Unions convenient, nice and the money stays within my community. Before more of our precious natural resources are destroyed I urge you to write to all the above mentioned, as well as President Obama, House Speaker John Boehnor, and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid. Stopping this now is key, before any more unintended consequences can occur and before it’s too late. This is our civil duty, to speak against the injustice and the misdeeds of those who think they can, because they have the power and the money.
Peace & Love,
About the Columnist
With a bachelors degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University, Christina Fermin has always cultivated her love for history, politics, sociology, ancient knowledge and teachings, the outdoors, the ocean and the environment.Christina strives to make our world better by helping us all create a new reality and understanding of all taking place here and now.
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