50 Year Anniversary Of Buffalo Creek Disaster


Feb 26, 2022

Fifty years ago, a coal processing waste sludge dam operated by Pittston Coal Company gave way, releasing 125 million gallons of coal waste, killing 125 West Virginians and leaving 4,000 homeless. Pittston called the disaster "an act of God." Then-Gov. Arch Moore, father of current US Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, banned journalists from the area and said, "The only real sad part is that the state of West Virginia has taken a terrible beating that is worse than the disaster." Today, we still have over a hundred active coal sludge dams in West Virginia. Among them are the Shumate’s Branch impoundment just 400 yards upstream from the old Marsh Fork Elementary School and the Brushy Fork impoundment above the communities of Pettus and Whitesville.At 2.8 billion gallons, Shumate’s is more than 20 times the volume of the Buffalo Creek disaster. At around 8 billion gallons, Brushy Fork holds more than 60 times the volume. Brushy Fork holds the added distinction of being built over abandoned underground mines, the same way, and by the same company, as the Martin County, KY, sludge dam that broke through in 1994 and again in 2000. Brushy Fork is also adjacent to the Bee Tree mountaintop removal site, which is “inactive” for now but could resume operations, including heavy blasting, whenever the coal company, Alpha Metallurgical Resources, feels like it. But never fear! The coal company’s hired expert has assured them that, even if the underground mines collapsed, everything would be fine. And WV Dept. of Environmental Protection engineer Greg Demyan has stated that blasting next to a dam can be good for it; he googled it.Coal River Mountain Watch outreach coordinator CRMW's Junior Walk, who attended the old Marsh Fork Elementary School and lives downstream of Brushy Fork, had this to say about the 50th anniversary:

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Just Say No To Renewed Mountaintop Removal


Feb 23, 2022

Lexington Coal Company has applied to renew their Twilight III-A mountaintop removal permit on Cherry Pond Mountain in the Coal River watershed. This is one of two permits on the Twilight complex under a consent order for failure to comply with reclamation requirements, among others with several violations and delinquent civil penalties.  Join us in opposing renewal of the Twilight III-A permit, S502408. You can join in the virtual conference Wednesday, March 2, at 3 PM at http://meet.google.com/irs-avwf-eqn . UPDATE: WVDEP has added a call-in option for those who need or prefer it. The number is +1 662-676-0243‬ PIN: ‪507 280 955‬#.  Be sure to state that you OBJECT to renewal of Lexington Coal Company's permit number S502408. You can also state your objections by email by March 2 to the permit supervisor, David Wagner, at david.r.wagner@wv.gov. Here are plenty of reasons why this permit should not be renewed:

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Year End Update


Dec 31, 2021

Dear Friends,        Thanks for sticking with us at Coal River Mountain Watch for another challenging year for all. Here’s a short summary of what we’ve been doing. 

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Recent Aerial Videos


Sep 30, 2021

Here's a sampling of recent aerial videos with descriptions of mountaintop removal sites and related coal operations on and around Coal River Mountain. Some are from our flyover with Southwings on June 16, 2021, and some are from drone flights by Junior Walk. To see more, you can go to (and subscribe please) to Coal River Mountain Watch on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnPu-xSzsMIOhwKDIC8K0qg and Junior Walk at https://www.youtube.com/user/BobaFeattus The old Marsh Fork Elementary School (black flat roof--the white building is the gym) across the Marsh Fork of the Big Coal River from Alpha Metallurgical Resources' Goals Coal preparation plant, under a 2.8 billion-gallon waste sludge dam. The orange ponds are treatment of coal waste before it's put back into the river. 

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We Still Object


Jun 13, 2021

WV Dept. of Environmental Protection intends to rubberstamp another mountaintop removal permit renewal on Coal River Mountain. This time it's the 2-square-mile Bee Tree site, inactive since 2014. If Bee Tree sounds familiar, it could be because this was the site where some of our friends sat in trees in January 2010 and August 2011, including a 30-day occupation. In addition to the carcinogenic blasting dust that this operation will send into its neighbors' lungs, it presents the added threat of blasting next to the Brushy Fork sludge dam. To object to renewal of the Bee Tree mountaintop removal permit, permit number S301004, you can comment on the online informal conference (public hearing) at 4PM, Thursday, June 17, at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/dmr/S301004. You can also call in to the conference at Phone number:  # (681) 245-6817, Phone Conference ID # : 512 837 087#. Or you can email your objection by 5 PM, Friday, June 18, to Laura.B.Claypool@wv.gov. Be sure to state that you object to renewal of Permit Number S301004. Thanks!Holding over 7 billion gallons of toxic black coal preparation waste, Brushy Fork sits over abandoned underground mines. It was designed, built, and operated by Massey Energy, whose Martin County, KY, sludge dam burst through into abandoned underground mines in 1994 and again in 2000. That disaster released over 300 million gallons of black goo into tributaries of the Tug Fork and Big Sandy, affecting the water supplies for over 20,000 people and leaving a mess that will never be fully cleaned up. Massey's engineer has assured WVDEP that everything is perfectly safe at Brushy Fork. (Massey also assured their miners that the Upper Big Branch mine was safe before it exploded and killed 29 miners in 2010, but that's another disaster.) Coal River Mountain Watch objects to renewal of permit S301004 operated by former Massey Energy subsidiary Marfork Coal Company, now a subsidiary of Alpha Metallurgical Resources. You can also object. Include the permit number, S301004, in your objection by email to Laura.B.Claypool@wv.gov by Friday, June 18, at 5 PM. About a thousand acres of this site remain "undisturbed." The "mined and reclaimed" portion of the site, visible on the ridge on the other side of the sludge lake and shown in red on the map below, is nothing to brag about, and Alpha has withdrawn their phase 1 bond release application for this portion. WVDEP is also holding an online "informal conference" (public hearing), where you can voice your objections, or you can ask questions of the WVDEP (at the beginning of the hearing), or you can just watch WVDEP go through their statutory motions before they give Alpha another five years to continue blasting this part of Coal River Mountain into dust. The link to the conference is at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/dmr/S301004. From WVDEP: The purpose of the informal conference is to allow comments from those people having an interest which is or may be adversely affected by the Marfork Coal Company, LLC Permit No. S301004, Permit Application Renewal No. 3, located southeast of Dorothy." We say that if you live on Earth, then you have an interest which is adversely affected. And if you care about the people downwind breathing the carcinogenic dust from this site, then you have an interest. And if you're concerned about the people downstream who could be inundated if Alpha's next disaster strikes Brushy Fork, then you have an interest.

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We Object


Apr 28, 2021

WV Dept. of Environmental Protection is holding an online informal conference April 28, 4 PM, to hear objections before they rubberstamp another mountaintop removal permit renewal. If you'd like to participate, the link is at https://apps.dep.wv.gov/meet/S300208. We'll be objecting to renewal of this ongoing blight on our mountain. If you participate in the online hearing, you can voice your objections, or you can ask questions of the WVDEP (at the beginning of the hearing), or you can just watch WVDEP go through their statutory motions before they give multi-billion-dollar coal giant Alpha Metallurgical Resources another five years to continue blasting this part of Coal River Mountain into dust. From WVDEP: "The purpose of the informal conference is to allow comments from those people having an interest which is or may be adversely affected by the Republic Energy, LLC Surface Mine Application Permit No. S300208, Renewal #2, located south of Clear Creek in Clear Fork District of Raleigh County." We say that if you live on Earth, then you have an interest which is adversely affected. And if you care about the people downwind breathing the carcinogenic dust from these site, then you have an interest. Since the WVDEP isn't allowing site visits because of Covid, they sent some pictures. Here are a few.

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More Death Approved


Apr 22, 2021

Just in time for #EarthDay2021, WVDEP approved another 1.7 square miles of deadly mountaintop removal on Coal River Mountain. Multi-billion-dollar Alpha Metallurgical Resources will blast this area into carcinogenic dust that will drift into the lungs of neighboring children and adults, and they'll fill the valleys to pollute the streams and river for decades. If you think this is a bad idea, it couldn't hurt to politely tell WVDEP permit supervisor Laura Claypool that she signed a death sentence for neighboring people at Laura.B.Claypool@wv.gov. The permit number is S301419. 

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