The Real Obscenity: They Will Call the Police

Abby Zimet

When longtime, prize-winning coal activist Maria Gunnoe went to Washington D.C. to testify to the House Committee on Natural Resources about the horrific water pollution her West Virginia neighbors live with day in and day out, she brought some photos of the damage from nearby mountaintop removal sites. The panel declined to accept a photo by photographer Katie Falkenberg - part of her series titled "The Human Toll," and taken with the parents' permission - of the five-year-old daughter of Erica and Rully Urias in brown bath water contaminated by arsenic and other heavy metals that have seeped into their water. On her way out, Gunnoe was intercepted by Capitol Police after GOP panel members "suggested she be questioned about child pornography." Like the man once said, we know obscenity when we see it.

"The real obscenity is that people drink that water, that they have no choice but to bathe in it, and to bathe their children in it. You know that, and I know that. But if a massive surface mining operation in the vicinity of your house poisons your water table, and if your well water runs brown with coal sludge and heavy metal particulate, well, that’s just the cost of doing business in America, a cost that will be paid by the Appalachians who only live there. It’s regrettable, at best. You can’t call the police and the state doesn’t want to know. And if you dare to take a picture of child’s exposure to that poison, if you have the nerve to walk into the halls of Congress and show them the obscenity that is a child that must wash herself with poison every day, they will call you a child pornographer. They will call the police."

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