This entry was written by Rebekah Reynolds, a recent graduate of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, IA, and a participant on the Windsor Heights Lutheran Church 2010 Mission Trip.
Sludge is the result of the debris left over from mountaintop removal surface mining mixed into the rivers and creeks and eventually becomes part of the surrounding area’s tap water. Obviously this problem has greatly affected West Virginia particularly because of its abundance in coal but what is most surprising is that I live several states away and never knew that our country was struggling to have clean tap water.
We arrived at the center for the Sludge Safety Project this afternoon and were greeted by Matt, one of the full time volunteers. After talking for about an hour about what sludge is and the effects of mountaintop removal, several other volunteers arrived with lunch. While eating sandwiches and chips the three told us in more information Matt hadn’t covered, for example, they showed us several pictures of tap water that was blood red and water heaters that leaked water that was coal black. Although the colored water is something you would not want to see coming out of your sink, what is worse is when the toxins are in the water and the water looks and smells normal. Sicknesses have been linked directly to the water and complaints have been made about the water but awareness is low enough that sludge continues to be a growing problem. One of the volunteers struck me when she that the people knew the water was coloring was abnormal but they assumed that because the problem had been around for years the water was okay to drink. How could anyone think orange or red water is safe to drink?
This afternoon we walked the surrounding neighborhood and passed out information about the Sludge Safety Project and the upcoming legislative meeting. Although the majority of the homes we visited no one came to the door, the few that did answer were more then willing to listen and several knew a lot about the problems. The though of how large the sludge problem is in West Virginia is daunting but the few that gave their email addresses and phone numbers gave me hope that the SSP had a chance to help clean up the drinking water for the families of West Virginia.
At the end of the day, while shopping for groceries, we bought the movie Erin Brockovich. The movie is a true story about a woman who takes down a powerful company because they are poisoning the water of the surrounding area and as a result causing sickness and even cancer. If you’ve never seen the movie I’m sorry if this ruins it for you but her success against a huge corporations gave me, and I’m sure the rest of the group, hope that eventually a cleaner way to produce coal will be adopted and West Virginia will be able to pride themselves, again, as the state with the cleanest natural well water.