Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two trips to the Brushy Fork Slurry impoundment

I took a trip up to see the Brushy Fork Impoundment this week.  This impoundment is designed to hold 9 billion gallons of sludge and is permitted to be 900 feet high (which is higher than the New River Gorge bridge).  

Why did I head up?  Permit revision for the Bee Tree Surface Mine will allow overburden to be dumped on the Brushy Fork impoundment.    This impoundment already is situated over top of underground mine shafts, like the coal refuse dam that broke in Inez, Ky, in 2000.  It sounded to me like blasting in close proximity to such a large slurry impoundment was a pretty stupid idea. 

The black to the left is the dam itself.  To the right are the two forks of Brushy fork, which is a tributary into little Marsh Fork, then into Marsh Fork, and then into Coal River.

Here you can see a dozer working to compact additional fill material onto to top of the dam.

Looking down the holler, the way the slurry would flow if there was a collapse of the dam, such as in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster.

Check out the emergency warning plan for yourself.  The plan states that over 990 people would be killed if this dam collapsed.  Not taken into account, however, are the effects of a "breakthrough:"  meaning the bottom of the impoundment would break and slurry would break into underground mineshafts.

A picture on the way down of a mountain that is still beautiful and not blasted apart YET.

Check out more information about slurry impoundments, as well as updates regarding a coal impoundment study.

Brushy Fork:  From the Other Side  

 We returned a few weeks later to the spot where blasting is supposed to start.   The above picture is from the opposite side of the impoundment, with the forks to the left and the dam to the right outside of the picture frame.

Here Matt and Becky are standing directly on top of the place where the blasting is supposed to begin on the Bee Tree MTR permit.  

Here are some beautiful pictures of Coal River Mountain that I took along the way:

Here is the view from Wristen Knob...beautiful!

Matt and Becky up on top of the Knob.  Becky is staying warm and bright in Bacon's coveralls!

This was my first time riding a four wheeler.  It was addictively fun.

By Jen Osha

A day with the Prenter Water Project

Last week I spent a day with Glenn, Matt, and Maria Lambert to help deliver barrels as part of the Prenter Water Project.

Here is a summary from their website:

The Prenter Water Fund came together in the Summer of 2008 a few months after residents of Prenter Hollow found out that the ground water they had used and depended on for generations had been contaminated by coal slurry injections.  With high illness rates and a lack of government willingness to help, the people decided to get clean water themselves.  With a water truck and storage containers at each house, the people of Prenter will have clean drinking water until a water line can be laid through Prenter Hollow.

Aurora Lights developed some educational pages about Prenter water quality to integrate into our CD release.  I also decided to go along for a day to help deliver barrels and get to meet folks in the community.  Here are some pictures from the journey:

Here is the map Maria drew for us showing us where the barrels needed to be delivered.  Even after living in West Virginia for eight years, it is still remarkable to me how well folks know their local geography and their neighbors.  

On the road with Matt and Glen.  They have been on the road delivering barrels to residents who have requested immediate access to clean water for drinking, cooking, bathing, etc.  

We set up a hand pump for each barrel that we deliver, so that it will be easier for residents to access their water.  I got the hang of putting them together by the end of the day.

Glen can bust them out really fast, even with cold fingers and creative tools.

Folks were really excited to get their barrel, even if there isn't water in it yet!  
Here is Barbara Sebok with her barrel.

Residents complain of water that is literally black when they leave home and return after a few days.  Even with the water running constantly, check out the water in the back of this toilet.

Evening came early, with still more barrels to deliver.  Here Matt is putting together a hand pump.

If you are interested in getting involved, please check out the Prenter Water Fund website, where you can contact participants or give a much appreciated donation.

By Jen Osha

Monday, July 21, 2008

Current Project

Aurora Lights will be releasing their newest project, a music CD centered on the culture and environmental issues in southern West Virginia, in June of 2009.  Check out our myspace page.  This music CD is the second music compilation Aurora Lights has produced, the first being “Moving Mountains: Voices of Appalachia Rise Up Against Mountaintop Removal.”

This new CD being compiled by Jen Osha and Sam McCreery and will have an online map component of participatory maps of the Coal River Valley. The participatory maps will consist of 3-5 layers focused on Coal River Valley as well as more detailed maps for areas of special concern. The maps serve as the central feature on the website through which additional multimedia, including web links, video, pictures, additional interviews and songs, can be geographically linked.

Aurora Lights was founded by Jen Osha in 1999 and has a mission to “strengthen connections within and between human communities and their natural environment.” In West Virginia, Aurora Lights supports hands-on environmental educational programs for college students, reforestation programs through their native trees nursery, and overseas opportunities for local students to travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon to experience First People’s connections to the land. They specifically organize, lead and fund weekend trips to the coalfields as well as summer internships.

The new compilation CD will have quite a line-up of musicians. A song from the up and coming band, Rising Appalachia (RISE), will also be featured on the CD. They have been compared Ani Difranco, The Be Good Tanyas and Bjork. Playing a fiddle, banjo, kalimba, and boudrhan, (with guests on the bass, trumpet, djembe, and more) the group Rising Appalachia offers a fresh, raw approach to traditional music. Keith and Joan Pitzer and Andrew McKnight have also submitted songs for consideration for the CD. They were featured on the Moving Mountains CD.

As with the Moving Mountains CD, the profits from this compilation will be donated back into the community in the form of direct grants. The proceeds from the Moving Mountains CD gave about $7,000 to coal field community members and non-profit organizations working to stop mountaintop removal coal mining.