Impact of Mountaintop Mining on Public Health
Today’s guest blog for our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series is a discussion of public health near the Coal River from Pamela Johnson, a Registered Nurse:
As a child, a stream behind my house in Hughes Creek, West Virginia, provided endless hours of entertainment. I turned over rocks to find crawfish. I skipped rocks across it and attempted to catch minnows. I sent bottles downstream with notes in them requesting someone (I imagined in a foreign land) contact me. I waded across the stream in summer and had my own private “pool.”
Now the chance to play in our streams is disappearing, threatened by mountaintop removal coal mining.
As a nurse, I’ve seen the impacts of poisoned water. I did health assessments in the Prenter area, where coal slurry has polluted residents' wells, and my findings were appalling. Before I went to Prenter, I thought that people were exaggerating their problems, but when I got there, I realized that they were under-reporting their health problems.
Cancer, skin lesions, kidney disease, rashes, ADD/ADHD, Asperger's Syndrome, and other illnesses are all far above the national average. Ninety-eight percent of the people I’ve seen on Prenter Road have gallbladder disease; children’s teeth are dissolving. Five people, including a child, with brain tumors lived on a single stretch of road.
Given that we are putting our families at risk, I am appalled that there is not more concern for the toxins we are putting in our water. Creeks, streams, and lakes all drain into our drinking water – so at some point we are drinking our mining waste.
We must do more to protect our small streams from pollution and destruction to protect the people and wildlife downstream.
This generation has no “imagination pool.” The crawfish, minnows, and clean streams that once held endless dreams and fascination for me are slipping away from our kids. We cannot live, and certainly cannot be healthy, without clean water.