The Whitesville, W.Va.-based Sludge Safety Project is claiming that a recent study of the water quality in an area of Boone County by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection used flawed research methods, contains errors and misinterprets its own data.
In January, the WVDEP completed a year-long study that found that drinking water supplies in the area surrounding Prenter Hollow were not coal-mining impacted. Residents of Prenter have complained of “blackwater” events and contamination that they believe is the result of injecting coal slurry into abandoned underground mines.
WVDEP commissioned Triad Engineering to conduct the year-long study of the geology and hydrology of the area, interview impacted residents and examine samples from domestic wells.
A week before the WVDEP study was released, the Sludge Safety Project rallied at the state Capitol to share results of independent studies concluding that coal slurry contaminated Prenter residents’ water. In 2008, Prenter residents filed a lawsuit against a group of coal companies claiming that underground slurry injection from a Massey Energy coal facility and other coal preparation plants contaminated their underground water supply.
With new reports of heavy equipment activity on Blair Mountain, residents are growing increasingly concerned that Arch Coal could begin strip mining the historic site of the 1921 battle for coal miners’ rights.
In February, Arch Coal announced record profits for the fourth quarter of 2011. One of the nation’s largest coal producers, Arch has four planned operations on Blair Mountain, some of which intrude onto the historic battlefield.
Supporters are exploring new ways to protect the mountain. The Blair Community Center and Museum, a non-profit organization located in Logan County, W Va., opened in the fall of 2011 to promote and preserve the history of Blair Mountain and educate the public on the environmental destruction caused by strip mining on the mountain.
The Community Center and Museum is currently running a special fundraising campaign for improvements to the museum building — including much-needed roof repair and a heating system — and to enhance the museum’s collection, including showcases, frames and important museum pieces. Future projects the center hopes to pursue include converting the building to solar power and constructing a community garden greenhouse.
The Blair Mountain Community Center and Museum has a goal of reaching $10,000 by the end of April. Visit indiegogo.com/the-start-of-a-new-beginning, to learn more.