You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello!

This last year has been an excellent one, with a team full of talented writers. As this issue goes to press, there are tearful eyes in the newsroom. But as we say goodbye to our Managing Editor, Maureen Halsema, our Voice summer interns Megan Naylor and Derek Speranza (who both have stories in this issue!), and our Riverkeeper interns Kara Dodson and Kimberly Hamilton, we are also saying hello to our newest members of the team.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow…

“This year has been one of the most challenging, exciting and educational year of my life,” said Maureen Halsema, who volunteered through the Americorps Communications Outreach Associate for Appalachian Voices this past year and served as Managing Editor of The Voice.

Maureen Halsema

“Working with the Appalachian Voices’ team has been an absolute pleasure, and I hope to continue writing for The Appalachian Voice in the future. Thank you to each of you for your passion and dedication to saving the world, one mountain at a time.”

Maureen is heading to Durham, N.C. to write for Alert Diver magazine; we will miss her vivaciousness and wish her the best of luck; we also look forward to possible collaborations with her new publication!

Welcoming New Friends

In July, Appalachian Voices was pleased to welcome to the team Kate Rooth, our new National Field Coordinator working in our Washington, D.C. office. Kate will be working on our end mountaintop removal coal mining campaign, helping to organize community members and citizens to effect legislation that would stop mountaintop removal.

Kate Rooth

Kate comes to Appalachian Voices from Rainforest Action Network, where she worked on their mountaintop removal campaign, targeting both regulators and financiers of coal mining. She previously worked for Greenpeace, where she contributed to a variety of climate and clean energy campaigns.

“I am thrilled to be working at App Voices,” said Kate. “Not only have I already met so many incredible supporters of our campaign, but I am humbled by each persons dedication to ending mountaintop removal. This fall I look forward to working on two Appalachian Treasures tours as well as our National Lobby Day. Be sure to swing by if you are ever in D.C.!”

Kate originally hails from Cashiers, N.C. and graduated from Lehigh University in 2005 with a degree in Political and Environmental Science. Kate is also involved with Rising Tide North America.

Jillian Randel

We would also like to welcome to the team Jillian Randel, who grew up in New Hampshire and graduated last year from the University of Tampa with a degree in Political Science. Jillian will spend a year as our Americorps Communications Associate volunteer and will serve as The Appalachian Voice Associate Editor.

“I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Appalachian Voices,” said Jillian. “I really enjoy writing and I hope I learn a lot from this organization and community!”
Jillian spent the last six months obtaining her yoga teacher certification. She also loves hiking, biking, reading and playing with her dog, Easton. Welcome Jillian!

Riverkeeper Festival A Success!

Kids explore the wonders of the Watauga River during Watauga Riverkeeper Fest!

By Parker Stevens
On July 24, Appalachian Voices kicked off our first ever Watauga Riverkeeper Festival in Valle Crucis, N.C., where hundreds of visitors joined us to celebrate outdoor recreation, environmental stewardship and of course, the Watauga River.

The Alberta Boys and Melissa Reaves played great music all day while kids and families enjoyed games in the park, dips in the river and lunch featuring local foods from the Boone Meat Center, Earth Fare and our own Executive Director, Willa Mays.

Cerilia Shelton dressed up as a water drop during the river parade.

Donna Lisenby, the Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, led adventures in the river where people learned all about the exciting critters hiding under rocks and played in the water. In light of two separate fish kills that occurred in Boone the previous week, people were particularly excited to learn what they can do to help protect our local waterways.

The afternoon included a river parade complete with costumes on loan from the Elkland Art Center; children dressed as water droplets marched around the park beneath a billowing cloth river. Meanwhile, children and adults along with members of the Appalachian Voices staff and board buried their faces in watermelon for no-hands watermelon eating contest (which is much harder than it looks!).

Thanks to everyone who helped make our inaugural festival a smashing success. See you again next year!

Fish Kill Exposes Asphalt Sealant Pollution Problem

By Jed Grubbs

On July 17, polluted runoff killed all aquatic life in a 1.5-mile long stretch of Hodge’s Creek in Boone, N.C. Donna Lisenby, Appalachian Voices’ Upper Watauga Riverkeeper, was on the scene a few hours after the event. Lisenby, along with the Town of Boone Fire Department, investigated the fish kill, tracing the pollution source to a BB&T parking lot on Hwy. 105.
After days of talking with local contractors, the Boone police department, and a spokesperson from BB&T, the Watauga Riverkeeper team was able to determine the cause of the fish kill to be a coal-tar based asphalt sealant applied to the BB&T parking lot by Sunshine Striping Asphalt and Seal Coat of Pine Hall N.C.

Coal tar—which would be listed as a “hazardous waste” were it not for a special federal exemption—contains benzo[a]pyrene. Benzo[a]pyrene is a chemical that made EPA’s list of 12 priority “persistent bioaccumulative toxins.”

Eyewitnesses report seeing the sealant—which is water soluble—being immediately applied before a heavy storm rain, which washed it from the parking lot into the creek. Of the many fish that were killed, the majority were trout. Lisenby expects it to be more than a year before the trout population recovers.

Neither BB&T nor Sunshine Asphalt Striping and Seal Coat reported the coal tar asphalt sealant spill and subsequent fish kill, nor did either attempt to clean up the spill.

Coal tar is applied to asphalt across the country, and concerns are growing that toxins from the product are being tracked into homes, schools, hospitals and other buildings. Coal tar-based asphalt sealants are a triple threat: it can be inhaled, ingested and absorbed through skin. It even comes off onto basketballs in school gymnasiums.

The city of Austin, Texas, banned the product almost five years ago when it was discovered to be damaging the local ecosystem. More recently other cities, including Washington, D.C., have followed suit. Minnesota has banned the purchase of coal-tar sealcoat products by state agencies as of July 1. Overwhelmingly, however, the product remains unregulated.

On July 21, Lisenby and her team investigated a second fish kill that also occurred in the town of Boone. The kill occurred after kerosene from Mountain Oil Company spilled onto the ground and soaked into the soil, eventually reachingthe water table and seeping into nearby Hardin Creek.

In contrast to the previous incident, Mountain Oil immediately reported their spill and began efforts to minimize the impact to Hardin Creek. Significantly less aquatic life was killed in the Mountain Oil spill.

Appalachian Treasures Launches 3-City Tour
Appalachian Voices is traveling northward this September to showcase our multi-media slideshow, Appalachian Treasures! We will be on the road in Boston, Maine, Philadelphia and D.C. as part of our campaign to end the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining.
Appalachian Treasures is an educational campaign to gain support for the Clean Water Protection Act (H.R. 1310) and the Appalachia Restoration Act (S. 696). The presentation depicts the dire situation in the coal regions of Appalachia and encourages Americans to help protect some of our nation’s oldest mountains and communities.
Visit for details!

AV To Launch New Water Testing Initiative
Appalachia Water Watch will work to address water quality issues related to coal, one of the biggest polluters in the region. Citizen scientists in select areas will be trained to test their local waterways in order to access potential patterns of violations. Stay tuned for more details.

Musical Tour Gives Us A Louder Appalachian Voice
Musicians Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore, and My Morning Jacket’s Yim Yames recently wrapped up the Appalachian Voices Tour to raise awareness about mountaintop removal mining. A representative from Appalachian Voices was able to join them to pass out information. Thanks to Ben, Daniel and Yim for the opportunity! Learn more at

Partnership Will Protect Kentucky’s Water
Appalachian Voices’ Upper Watauga Riverkeeper program has entered into a partership to conduct thorough reviews of water quality permits in the Kentucky Coalfields.
The partnership, which includes the Kentucky Riverkeeper and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, unite the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Alliance for Appalachia in a joint action to investigate water pollution in the coalfields and bring enforcement action.
Pace University Environmental Litigation Clinic, a fourth partner, will lead potential litigation proceedings on violations that are found.

Shoe Shopping That Also Protects Mountains

Mast General Store and Patagonia have teamed up during the month of September to support Appalachian Voices by graciously donating $10 for every pair of Patagonia shoes sold. There is a little time left—and even if you don’t live near a Mast Store, you can order online at

Celebration and Inspiration in Charlottesville, VA
On Aug. 12, Appalachian Voices’ staff and board met with members new and old in Charlottesville, Va for a movie date night. After a screening of the documentary, Coal Country, people had the chance to meet with the director, the producer and activists from the film, and also enjoy live music by a local band featured on the soundtrack.
The event in Charlottesville was a great way to join our members and supporters to celebrate how far we’ve come, and to gain inspiration for the work ahead. Thanks to everyone who attended the show; we enjoyed meeting you!


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Comment