(6) Mandated land reclamation areas are usually left stripped and bare. Mountains are destroyed and lost. Once maximum coal is extracted, mining communities and jobs disappear. Residents are driven out by dust, blasting, residues, toxins, flooding, landslides, and "dangers from overloaded trucks careening down small, windy mountain roads."
Enormous amounts of waste are generated. In solid form, it's valley fills. Liquid is stored in "massive, dangerous coal slurry impoundments, often built in" watershed headwaters. A carcinogenic chemical "witch's brew" is used to wash coal for market, leaving behind poisonous residues. Frequent blackwater spills choke life from streams.
For example, the Southeast's worst ever environmental disaster sent 306 million gallons of sludge up to 15 feet thick into residents' yards. It also fouled 75 miles of waterways.
Another affected Southern West Virginia's Buffalo Creek when heavy rain caused a slurry pond to fill up, breaching its containment dam. As a result, "a (132 million gallon) wall of black water" blighted the valley below, killing 125 residents, injuring 1,100, and leaving 4,000 homeless.
In addition, over 1,000 cars and trucks were destroyed, causing $50 million in damage overall. Though warned about the dangerous dam, Pittston Coal Company took no precautions, dismissively calling the disaster an "act of God."
A Final Comment
EarthJustice and other environmental groups are urging Congress to pass HR 1375: Clean Water Protection Act. Introduced on April 5, 2011, then referred to Committee, it's legislation to "amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify that fill material cannot be comprised of waste."
EarthJustice calls it a way to put "tighter restrictions on dumping pollution into Appalachian streams by overturning the dangerous fill rule." If enacted, it will restore eroded Clean Water Act protections, even though passage won't assure coal giants' compliance. They may, in fact, accept hand slap citations and fines to keep doing business as usual like always in the past.