CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Members of the Kanawha State Forest Coalition are celebrating an order out by the state Department of Environmental Protection to permanently stop mountaintop surface mining on the KD#2 mine near the Kanawha State Forest.
“They listened to us. They took our concerns seriously,” said Jim Waggy, coalition member, after the group rallied for more than two years to gain the attention of state DEP officials.
In May 2014, the DEP approved the KD#2 permit allowing for strip mining which was within several hundred feet of the forest and the community of Loudendale, just outside of Charleston. But over the last two years, there were a number of violations and temporary cessations orders at and near the mine site including drainage and sediment control failures near Davis Creek, off-site erosion and change in water quality that contaminated residents’ drinking water.
“As thrilled as I am that our mine is closed, my water’s already poisoned,” said Dale Royce, of Loudendale. “My well water’s okay as far as I know, but the creek will never be the same.”
Royce was one of several speakers who described how the operation of the KD#2 mine has impacted her during a press conference held Tuesday at the state Capitol.
She said the noise, dust, air and water quality were among major concerns for her.
“The fear of flooding every time it rains because now the creek rises so quickly with all the trees and dirt gone from the mountain,” she said. “And that the West Virginia DEP knows this and the mine owner and operator do nothing to correct the issues.”
“I can’t celebrate when I know that other families have dealt with this assault on their lives for so many more years than I have,” Royce said. She’s urging state officials to start looking at “the human cost of refusing to see any future for our state other than coal.”
Waggy said there’s some who are against the shutdown of mines in West Virginia, but said residents need to “face up to the fact” that the decline of the industry is going to continue.
“Coal has been an economic force for West Virginia, but it has never been able to provide a solid foundation for stable, strong, healthy, sustainable communities,” he said.
Under current law, a surface coal mine cannot adversely impact the adjacent land or water outside of the permit boundary, nor should it contaminate the water, but Waggy said the damage was already done at this particular mine.
“It was in an entirely inappropriate location. It never made any sense,” he said. “Any mine that can’t operate in an environmentally responsible manner is doing more harm than good for our state.”
Coalition members are now calling for more meetings and more communication with DEP officials in order to create even more change.
“We believe West Virginia’s regulatory system would be greatly strengthened if there was more of this kind of mutually respectful, cooperative engagement between citizen groups and the DEP,” Waggy said.
“Maybe I can do the happy dance,” Royce said of the DEP order. “The victory lap will wait until real change happens at state and federal level. I’m not done.”