The vivid and shocking story of the destruction done by mining coal from the Appalachian Mountains will be told when the Mountaintop Removal Road Show comes to Southwest Georgia. Your south and west Georgia Riverkeepers present Kentucky engineer and environmentalist Dave Cooper will present:
* Thursday, January 28th, 7 p.m.; The Bridge House at 112 North Front Street (Albany Welcome Center), downtown Albany, Georgia
Called “stunning” and “outrageous” by members of audiences who have seen the Roadshow which began touring the country in 2003, the presentation will be followed by a discussion of the far-ranging effects on people, communities and the land when power plants are fueled by coal. Mercury in our fish, failures of coal-ash disposal, high water demand, missed economic opportunities and logical alternatives to energy supply will also be addressed.
Cooper describes how mining companies abandoned the more dangerous and less efficient traditional method of extracting coal from underground seams in the 1970s for the practice of blowing off mountaintops. Employing no more than fifteen to twenty people, it takes about a year to turn a forested mountain and its surrounding trout streams into a barren, grey desert. Rock and dirt, discarded after the coal is extracted, is dumped over the edge of the flattened mountaintop and left to bury streams and contaminate drinking water with sediment and heavy metals.
Even if residents manage to withstand the year of blasting, they may be finally forced out of their homes by the flooding caused when there are no longer any trees to prevent erosion. “Once the out-of-state companies leave a devastated landscape, communities are left with no jobs save those provided by prisons and landfills,” said Cooper.
State and federal data clearly show that fish in all of Georgia’s blackwater systems, like the Ogeechee and Satilla, the Okefenokee Swamp and the tributaries of the Flint and Altamaha, are particularly vulnerable to mercury contamination from burning coal. Most fish are on a one-a-month or one-a-week meal advisory. Certain larger catfish are classified as “do not eat”.
“Coal is a threat to the Satilla River,” according to John Carswell, Acting Executive Director of Satilla Riverkeeper, “beginning in the 1980s with the contamination of our fish, to 2004 with the proposal to import toxic coal fly-ash to be piled up in Ware County, to the recent proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in Ben Hill County, eight miles from the Satilla headwaters. When you hear the stories of the folks who have seen the mountains their people have lived on for generations left as piles of mud and rubble, loaded on boxcars of coal heading south to burn in Georgia, it makes you feel like you don’t want any part of it,” said Carswell.
”The Flint is flanked by two proposed plants, the one in Ben Hill county and the one in Early county,” said Gordon Rogers, Flint Riverkeeper. “Our fish are already contaminated. Plant Scherer, the largest coal-fired plant in North America, is just off the edge of our watershed. Plant Mitchell, in the watershed, is currently slated for conversion to biomass combustion. THAT is the way we need to head, not toward more coal-fired plants. We can have new jobs and stabilize our ad valorem tax base without coal.”
“There are so many loopholes for the pollution from these coal plants,” said Chandra Brown, Ogeechee Riverkeeper. “In the case of Plant Washington, proposed to discharge to both the Ogeechee and Oconee Rivers, none of the sewage and rainwater discharges would be monitored for the toxic metal, mercury and many other known contaminants found in the solid waste and water from burning coal. All this pollution to fuel a declining demand that could easily be met with simple and much less costly conservation measures.”
All citizens who care about their rivers and their communities are encouraged to attend. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.