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Reuters Article About Ed Wiley’s Walk to Washington

Just saw this Reuters article on about Ed’s walk and wanted to share it with everyone:

W.Va grandpa marches on DC for clean air, safe schools
Sun Sep 10, 2006 7:30pm ET165

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) – Ed Wiley, a West Virginia grandfather, is marching on Washington, walking hundreds of miles on mountain roads to entreat the federal government to do what local officials won’t do: Move a schoolhouse that sits yards away from a coal silo he says makes kids sick.

“This school has to be moved,” said Wiley, 49, standing on a two-lane road in the Appalachian coalfields. “This is a toxic site. It has to go.”

Goals Coal, a Massey Energy (MEE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) subsidiary, stores coal waste and chemicals in a 2.8 billion-gallon pond up the mountain from Marsh Fork Elementary, where Wiley’s granddaughter attended school. Less than 100 yards (90 m) from the playground, a silo holds coal processed at an adjacent plant.

Wiley, a former coal industry contractor, and his neighbors say the company plans to erect a second silo nearby that will produce even more coal dust and potentially sicken more of Marsh Fork’s 220 pupils.

Some of Wiley’s neighbors, who have formed an advocacy group called Coal River Mountain Watch, say it’s not just schoolchildren who may be at risk. If the pond’s chemicals seep into local groundwater, residents could become sick as well. Worse yet, they say if the 21-year-old earthen dam broke, townspeople could drown.

Coal River Mountain Watch found in an informal survey that many students already have asthma or chronic bronchitis.

Company officials could not be reached for comment on the silo location. Massey Energy has maintained in past disputes that it assiduously follows state and federal rules.

Wiley says he is a realist, not an idealist: He knows that many of the local residents, friends and family, need Goals Coal to keep food on the table. And America’s appetite for energy, increasingly from coal-rich Appalachia, is not going to diminish anytime soon. But the school still needs to be moved and a law passed to prevent the building of future schools near industrial operations, he says.

“Most… mining laws are signed in blood,” he said. “And hopefully we can do it before there’s bloodshed there.

State officials agreed with residents about the second silo but they say it’s up to the local government to decide whether the school should be moved, an expensive proposition that could cost taxpayers in this lower-middle-class area millions of dollars.

Local officials right now seem unconvinced it’s worth the money. They note the state’s air-quality tests have shown that the school, built in 1968, meets safety standards and there are no elevated risks of cancer or respiratory problems in the area. As for the dam, federal officials say it, too, is safe.

Still, locals, including Wiley have their doubts about those assessments.

When Wiley arrives in the nation’s capitol on September 12, he plans to deliver a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings asking for her help to build a new school. He also hopes to meet with his state’s veteran senator, Democrat Robert Byrd to find ways to get additional monetary support.

And if the federal government won’t listen, Wiley says he will try to raise the money himself. He carries a purple flag that reads “Pennies of Promise.”

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MEE (Massey Energy Co )
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W.Va grandpa marches on DC for clean air, safe schools
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