Coal River again makes ‘most endangered’ list

May 15, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

The Coal River runs by the Alpha Natural Resources Goals Coal processing plant, near Marsh Fork Elementary School, in Raleigh County. Photo by Vivian Stockman

Here’s the announcement this morning from the group American Rivers:

American Rivers named the Coal River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers today, shining a national spotlight on the threat mountaintop removal mining poses to clean water and public health. The announcement of the Coal is particularly timely, with the nation commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act this year, and Congress considering drastic rollbacks to clean water safeguards.

The Coal River has made this list before, and here’s what American Rivers has to say this year:

The extremely destructive practices of mountaintop removal mining and valley fills that bury and poison headwater streams pose a dire threat to the health of the Coal River and surrounding communities. Some of the largest strip mines in Appalachia exist in the Coal River basin. Approximately 20 percent of the river’s watershed is permitted for coal mining, and one-third of that area has already been mined. Over 100 miles of headwater streams have already been buried in the watershed.

Cindy Rank, mining chair for the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, said:

In the last couple of years, much positive attention has been given and energy expended to entice local involvement and enjoyment of the lower reaches of the Coal River in Kanawha County. And yet the smaller headwater streams miles upriver continue to be buried and polluted by giant coal mining mountaintop removal operations. It is here in these headwaters where the life and health of the river begins. And it is here where the connections between the health of the environment and the health of the people are most apparent. Protecting these small streams is essential for the long term health of both.

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