Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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August 2009

Floods ... Again
OVEC Organizer Wins International Recognition with Green Nobel
JOBS and Energy Answers for Our WV Mountain Communities
Picnic for Green JOBS
MTR Mining Equipment Taken Off Gauley Mountain For Now
Board Adds Conditions to Disputed Fayette County Mine Permit
Lets Make Sure the Transition to a Clean, Green Energy Future in WV is a Peaceful One
Calling All Potential New OVEC Board of Directors Members!
Congress Doesnt Always Want to Come CLEAN
The CLEAN Citizens Leading For Energy Action Now
American Clean Energy Security Act: Coal Rewarded
Good Gosh, We Could Have Used That Money to Jump Start the Clean Energy Future in America!
Slurry Lawsuit Settlers Frustrated With Wait for Money
Mountains Aided With First-Ever Fundraising Concert in North Carolina
Sludge Safety Project Legislative Session Wrap-Up
DEPs Sludge Study Results: Agency Still Dont Know Nuthin
OVEC Organizer Testifies at Senate MTR Hearing
Thanks for All the Volunteers Who Helped After the Floods
Fighting For Our Ancestors Resting Places
Lobbying for Green Jobs in DC
Growing Movement Demands Protection for Mountains, Climate, Humanity
Environmental Groups Ask EPA to Take Over WV Pollution Permitting
Byrds Eye View: Staffers Get Close-Up Views of Mountain Range Removal
A Good Win in A Critical Federal Court Case Against MTR
Judicial Bill Pulled by Governor
Supreme Court Case Makes WV A National Laughingstock
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Photovoice Participants Capture their Communities in Images
Photovoice Exhibitions Well Covered By Local and Statewide Media
You Dont Have to Go to Copenhagen to Make a Difference
Obama and Mountaintop Removal Mining: The Roller Coaster Ride
New CD Celebrates Coalfield Resistance to Mountaintop Removal
Blair Mountain and the National Register of Historic Places
Ashford Yesterday, Today and Maybe Tomorrow?
Come Home to West Virginia? Buyer Beware!
Louv-ley Day in Charleston
Who Are They Kidding?
Web Extras:
Open Letter to Governor Manchin about Blair Mountain
Matewan, West Virginia

For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

Winds of Change Newsletter, August 2009     See sidebar for table of contents

Floods ... Again

The high school in Gilbert, Mingo County, pictured above, was severely damaged by flooding. Large mud flows could be traced directly off the mountaintop removal site above the school. Photo by Paul Corbit Brown, flyover courtesy of SouthWings.

Imagine the swiftness of it having no time to collect precious family photographs or the serving bowl your grandma gave you on your wedding day. No way to grab some clothing or extra shoes, just leaving the house as fast as you can, with what you have on your back, to avoid the roiling waters.

This scenario has, unfortunately, become all too familiar to the citizens of West Virginias coalfield counties. Loss upon loss, repeated endlessly. Some families in Mingo County have been flooded out of their homes two or three times since Mothers Day. The toll the flooding takes is more than the destruction of homes and the loss of possessions, which is devastating enough.

The emotional upheaval and stress are almost crippling. Howard Branham, a veteran from the affected area, states, "I spent time in the war in Iraq, and I never saw anyone there look as shell-shocked as my neighbors do. They are walking around in shock."

And its no wonder. Bridges were washed away, roads closed and damaged, culverts filled with debris. Peoples homes and yards vanished and mobile homes were ripped off their foundations and carried away by the waters. Trees were downed and then clogged already full streams, making the flooding worse. Power outages left areas in the dark.

Although Governor Manchin and coal industry apologists call the flooding an "act of God," the residents know better. And so do scientists. Jack Spadaro, former director of the National Mine Health and Safety Academy, states that the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the West Virginia state government have all found connections between the flooding and the huge mountaintop removal sites in the area.

"If you look at any of the areas where the flood is, you can find direct links, such as erosion gullies on the faces of the valley fills and landslides and debris flows that go all the way down into the valleys below," says Spadaro. Aerial photographs affirm his contention; recent images of Mingo County showed visible areas of runoff originating at mountaintop removal sites.

A local man who was helping his sister clean mud out of her Varney home stated in an interview with Public Radio, "And each and every time it gets larger. So the next one will be bigger. The same amount of rain, these creeks just fill in. The water does not have nowhere to go. Theyve done all this mountaintop removal and timber and gas line and all of that, and everything just fills these valleys in." 

DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco reported that inspectors cited a Rawl Sales operation in Mingo County because two culverts failed, sending water into the yards and basements of nearby homes. One of those homes belonged to Pastor Larry Brown, who was forced to watch helplessly as mud and slate slid off the Massey mine site behind his house, filling the nearby creek and shooting four feet of water into his home.

Brown, an OVEC supporter, stated, "Now, weve had water before and weve had extensive rain. Its never come out of the banks. Its never. At 30 years Ive been here weve never had a problem. When this sediment came (off the hillside) the water had to go somewhere so it just dumped on us. It had no choice. So its the coal companys fault." 

Carl Mills of North Matewan in Mingo County surveys the flood damage to his yard. The cars in the background were tossed around like toys by the force of the water. Photo by Paul Corbit Brown

West Virginias churches, as always, responded swiftly by providing emergency assistance, shelter, and counseling. But like other non-profit organizations that rely heavily on donations, churches are finding themselves unable to provide as much assistance as they have in the past. "The money just isnt there like it used to be," lamented Cheryl Ingraham of the West Virginia Council of Churches.

Money notwithstanding, folks turned out in traditional Appalachian fashion to help their neighbors. OVEC members responded with donations and clean-up labor. We networked with groups like Mountain Justice, which brought in people from all over the country to help with the cleanup efforts. But residents observed that the majority of the work crews were from nearby, and particularly Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

The flooding on and after Mothers Day destroyed an estimated 3,000 buildings in 11 counties and has so far resulted in over $60 million in government assistance. Most Americans want to help those affected by natural disasters, but one wonders what taxpayers around the country would think of their tax dollars being used to repeatedly subsidize irresponsible coal mining practices. Natural disasters are one thing unnatural, avoidable disasters are something else entirely.


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