Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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Sludge Disaster: Unhappy Anniversary
October 11, 2001 

Photos by Vivian Stockman

Oct. 11, 2001 marks the one-year anniversary of the nation's worst "blackwater" spill. That day, over 300 million gallons (first reports said 250 million) of sludge broke through from a coal waste slurry impoundment at Kentucky's largest mountaintop removal operation, a site owned by Martin County Coal Co., a subsidiary of Massey Energy.

The black goo, (laden with heavy metals present in coal and coal cleaning chemicals and who-know what-they-dump-in-those-impoundments) poured into Coldwater and Wolf Creeks and oozed down the Tug Fork and Big Sandy Rivers, into the Ohio, traveling 100 miles, closing down community water supplies and devastating aquatic life. The disaster "helped" place the Big Sandy on American Rivers' Most Endangered Rivers list.

Residents are upset about the slow pace of the clean-up. Some still can't drink their well water. Septic systems are not working. What's left of stream bank vegetation isn't healthy. People are worried about their health.

Still, Massey Energy insists they are a good corporate neighbor.

But the headlines the sludge disaster generates represent just one aspect of Massey's poor corporate record: Miner fatalities. Aggressive anti-union tactics. Overweight coal trucks. Deadly accident involving overweight coal trucks. Frequent blackwater "spills." Dodged worker's comp taxes.

OVEC members stand outside Massey headquarters to remind the company of all its misdeeds. The giant placards list just some of the news stories about Massey's misdeeds in the last two years. ------

On the one-year anniversary of the catastrophe Massey called "an act of God," we (about 100 representatives of OVEC, Student Activism for the Environment, Coal River Mountain Watch, Citizens' Coal Council, WV Rivers Coalition, WV Highland Conservancy, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Sierra Club and the United Mine Workers of America) decided to drop by Massey headquarters to tell Massey to clean up its act. (Note: So far, the UMW does NOT support the environmentalists' drive for a ban on mountaintop removal, but the union certainly agrees with us that Massey Energy is bad for labor and the environment.)

OVEC's Janet Fout reminds the crowd, including all area TV stations and newspapers, that fighting to save our mountains is fighting for homeland security. 

Nowadays, Massey tries hard at public relations (line1washing), even though their spokesman is frequently unavailable for comment. But, back before they were so PR slick, they inadvertently let the truth out: 

 

OVEC's Larry Gibson, Coal River Mountain Watch's Pauline Canterbury and Reverend Jeff Allen went into Massey headquarters to try to deliver our demands that Massey clean up its act. The press plowed in behind them, demanding to hear from Massey usually absent spokesman. The spokesman, Bill Marcum, as usual was unavailable. Massey attorney Shane Harvey (center of photo) said he could not guarantee the demands would be delivered to Massey's CEO Don Blankenship. Harvey repeatedly asked our delegation and the press to leave the premises.

 

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