Coal and chemicals pollute water and sky
Recent columns by Rob Byers and Howard Swint tell the story of bad water in West Virginia, but they fail to identify the cause, mainly for fear of the noise big coal will make. I'm past 80 and have been bargaining with St. Peter for some time for a pass through the gates, so I do not fear the noise anymore.
I am the son of Matt Durbin, who took me in when my mother died in 1935, and who was a pick and shovel miner in Greenbrier, Fayette and Kanawha counties in the 1930s, '40s and '50s until the famous blue tattoos, black lung and what we now know as dementia from too many blue tattoos took his life at age 66. We lived in three-room shacks in Raleigh County, sometimes tenant farming to pay the rent, until 1944, when Matt went to work for Peabody Coal at Eccles. Eccles is well known for the massive explosion in 1914 that took the lives of about 180 poor souls and passed from owner to owner for many years and is still in operation.
I remember about 30 years ago when this newspaper announced that the end of mineable coal in West Virginia was on the horizon and that the only profitable way to continue mining was mountaintop removal. Therein lies the problem with water all over the hills and valleys of West Virginia. I was exiled by Matt Durbin and my maternal granddad to South Charleston when I turned 17 just to escape the life of a coal miner. I found another way to poor health by working the various chemical plants, thus escaping the black lung, but breathing the air of this polluted valley for the next 50 years, I am settling for a much more subtle killer, emphysema.
I worked in various plants in the valley and knew that most, if not all, helped pollute the very skies. We were too dumb to see that the Indian tribes of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio would not settle here because of the pollution due to airflow inversion! Mr. Big Coal still tries to sell us on clean coal, when there has never been such an animal!
P.S.: I still thank FDR for the WPA and CCC. I was a waterboy for Matt when he worked one summer for the Works Projects Administration. I was 9.
Walter J. Durbin