Activists maintain pressure on Massey and EPA

17 April 2009
Contact: Glen Collins, 304-854-7372

SUNDIAL, W.Va. – Three activists, who are committed to nonviolently ending mountaintop removal, unveiled a banner that said “EPA stop MTR” at Massey Energy’s Edwight mountaintop removal mine.  Five people were arrested: the three activists Charles Suggs, Madeline Gardner, and William Wickham, and independent photographer Antrim Caskey and independent filmmaker Jordan Freeman.  The activists chose the Edwight mine because Massey has recently begun blasting directly above the town of Naoma, W.Va.,and the grave danger its slurry dam poses to Marsh Fork Elementary. This is the fifth in a series of such actions over the last 3 months that Climate Ground Zero has taken against Massey Energy and mountaintop removal coal mining.

“With the EPA seemingly considering actually doing its job, we believe they will realize that mountaintop removal is illegal and put a stop to it,” Mathew Louis-Rosenberg said, referencing the five mountaintop removal permits EPA has put on hold for review in recent weeks.

Police arrested the activists and charged them with trespassing.

“Mountaintop removal is killing people and the the blame lies with the people who let it happen, from the politicians,to the out-of-state mining and land companies, to the DEP and EPA who should have never even let this start,” activist Charles Suggs said.  “People’s water is getting poisoned by coal slurry, the blasting shakes dishes off the walls and cracks foundations and the rubble buries what makes West Virginia great.”

Marsh Fork Elementary is just two miles from the site of the arrests.  It sits less than three-hundred feet from a coal loading silo, where chemically treated coal is loaded onto idling diesel trains, exposing the children to fine,chemical-laden coal dust and diesel fumes.

Marsh Fork Elementary is also directly below a Massey Energy coal sludge impoundment, holding over two billion gallons of coal sludge. Sludge is liquid waste from the coal washing process that is pumped into a dam built into a small valley. Mine Safety & Health Administration inspector Jim Elkins cited Massey in 1999 for improper construction of the dam above Marsh Fork Elementary.

Massey was building the dam in layers up to 10 feet thick between compacting the refuse, which makes proper compaction impossible.   Without proper compaction the dam could fail, sending a tsunami of coal sludge through the school and communities downstream.  “If the dam failed, fatalities would be expected to occur,” Elkins wrote in his report.  “It’s reasonably likely an accident would occur if the condition continued to exist.”

There’s no record the faulty construction was ever fixed.

The Edwight Surface mine, above Naoma and Marsh Fork Elementary school, is a glaring example of everything that is wrong with mountaintop removal mining and coal processing,according to Climate Ground Zero. This banner was dropped to highlight for the EPA what could happen if mountaintop removal coal production is allowed to expand, threatening more schools and blasting above more homes, they said.  “This act is a message to the EPA to do the responsible thing, and use its power to stop mountaintop removal mining,” activist Will Wickham said.


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