Raising the Dead: Memorial Day Activists Jailed in Protest to Stop 998 Coal Sludge Deaths

three separate direct actions in the West Virginia coalfields on Saturday, nonviolent protesters launched the new phase of Operation
Appalachian Spring, a growing national campaign to stop mountaintop
removal mining and raise awareness of the catastrophic potential of
government regulated blasting near a precarious coal sludge

"The toxic lake at Brushy Fork dam sits atop a honeycomb of
abandoned underground mines,"said Chuck Nelson, from Raleigh County,
W.Va. "Massey wants to blast within 100 feet of that dam. The company's
own filings with the state Department of Environmental Protection
project a minimum death toll of 998 should the seven-billion-gallon dam
break. EPA should override the DEP and revoke this blasting permit for
the safety of the community." Nelson did not participate in the civil
disobedience actions.

The nearby Shumate Dam sits a few football fields atop the Marsh Fork elementary school.

In a telling if not bizarre twist of violations and governmental
priorities, Mountain Justice activists who floated a "West Virginia
Says No More Toxic Sludge" banner atop the toxic multi-billion gallon
Brushy Fork slurry impoundment were arrested for "littering."

Still unable to make bail, nine of the 17 arrested protesters are
being held on trespassing charges at the Southern Regional Jail in
Beckley, West Virginia. In an extraordinary move to crack down on the
protesters, nine violators were given a cash bail of $2000 a piece,
which, according to the organizers, prohibits a bail bondsman deposit
and requires full payment.

Donations for the activists' emergency bail fund can be made at a paypal link at: www.mountainjustice.org

Facing a daily assault of over 3 million pounds of ammonium
nitrate/fuel oil explosives detonated at mountaintop removal sites in
Appalachia, Coal River Valley residents joined with Mountain Justice
and Climate Ground Zero activists at the entrance of Massey Energy's
Marfork mining complex in Pettus, West Virginia on Saturday, May 23rd.
According to the Sludge Watch Collection, seven people approached the
entrance to the dam facility and the Whitesville detachment of the West
Virginia State Police asked them to leave. When the seven refused, the
state police arrested them.

The police refused to arrest 94-year-old former Congressman Ken
Hechler, D-W.Va, who first held congressional hearings on the egregious
impact of mountaintop removal in 1971. (A follow-up interview with
Hechler, who led a national campaign for the abolition of strip-mining
in the 1960s and 1970s, will be released later this week.)

Thirty-eight years after Hechler's first hearings on mountaintop
removal, scores of Appalachian communities have been flooded,
depopulated, subjected to a boom-bust single economy of outside coal
companies, and contaminated by toxic strip-mining operations; over 500
American mountains have been blown to bits, an estimated 1,300 miles of
streams have been jammed with waste, and over a million acres of
deciduous hardwoods forests in America's oldest and most diverse
mountain range have been wiped out.

Picketers placed 1,000 pairs of shoes to the site to represent the
number of people killed if the Brushy Fork Slurry Impoundment were to
burst. According to the protestors, Massey Energy's own filings with
the W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection noted the 998
potential deaths as the minimum number in the case of a catastrophic
breach of the earthen dam.

A Massey subsidiary in eastern Kentucky was responsible for the
largest coal slurry spill in the eastern US--until last December's TVA
coal ash pond disaster--leaking over 300 million gallons of toxic
sludge into the area's waterways and aquifers in 2000. That disaster
"impacted more than 100 miles of stream beds and associated flood
plains downstream," and also covered backyards and farmland in coal
slurry, according to a 2001 EPA's task force report.

"I fear for my friends and all the people living below this coal
sludge dam," said Gary Anderson, who lives on the mountain near the
site. "Blasting beside the dam, over underground mines, could decimate
the valley for miles. The 'experts' said that the Buffalo Creek sludge
dam was safe, but it failed. They said that the TVA sludge dam was
safe, but it failed. Massey is setting up an even greater catastrophe

In a related action, six Mountain Justice activists locked
themselves to mountaintop removal equipment on the nearby Kayford mine
site owned by Patriot Mining Company with a banner: "Never again!" The
protesters were cited for trespassing and released.

Here's a clip from that action:

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