On a sweltering mid-summer morning, grandfather Ed Wiley set out on
a 455 mile walk from Charleston, West Virginia to Washington, DC. About
30 supporters helped Ed kick off his walk, while over a dozen reporters
and cameramen documented the event.
While walking to DC, Wiley--representing the Pennies of Promise
campaign --hopes to raise awareness about
the situation at Marsh Fork Elementary, in Sundial, W.Va., where his
granddaughter is a student. Ed will also raise funds for a new school in
the kids' own community while calling out Gov. Joe Manchin for his
inaction on ensuring the school kids' safety. You can help Ed
by scheduling speaking events along
the way and / or donating
to the Pennies of Promise campaign.
In DC--where he expects to arrive by September 12--Wiley hopes to
meet with Senator Robert C. Byrd, Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings, and a representative of the Mine Safety and Health
Administration, as well as others. He'll deliver letters regarding the
problems at Marsh Fork Elementary School to various officials and ask
them to pressure Gov. Manchin to take action.
Marsh Fork Elementary School sits just 225 feet from a coal loading
silo that releases coal dust associated with coal processing. A recent
study of dust samples from the school confirmed residents' suspicions
that the coal dust was getting into the school and children were
breathing it. (Click on "the Science"
read more on the dust study.) In addition,
an earthen dam permitted to hold 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal waste
sludge looms just 400 yards upstream. Previous efforts through the
local school board and Governor Manchin have been met with inaction. In
2005, Manchin told Wiley that he would look into citizens' concerns. To
date, no state agency has tested the school's air for coal dust or begun
a health survey of the students.
"Joe Manchin is putting a price on these kid's heads, he's letting
coal profits come before the safety of these children," Wiley stated. "I
just can't understand why on earth he won't see it in his heart to make
sure these kids have a safe and healthy place to learn, right here, in
their own community."
Some community members felt betrayed when Joe Manchin repeatedly
backed out on his word to do "everything in his power" to "ensure the
safety" of the children at Marsh Fork Elementary.
"We've had just about enough of Joe Manchin's bologna, he's obviously
not interested in the health or welfare of our children," said Bo Webb
of Naoma, WV "He's broken one too many promises, it's clear we'll have
to go elsewhere if we want to see results on behalf of our children."
The issue of safety at the school has garnered international
attention on ABC World News Tonight, in Vanity Fair and
O Magazine. Pennies of Promised has accepted 85 pounds of pennies
from the Bank Street School in NY, a "sister" school, $5.00 from as far
as Wales and has even been supported by Edward Norton and Woody
Harrelson. The public can check on Wiley's progress and sponsor the walk