Another Buffalo Creek?

By: Laurabree Austin Email
By: Laurabree Austin Email

It was one of the worst disasters in West Virginia's history.

One hundred twenty-five people were killed in the Buffalo Creek Disaster. Thousands more were injured in the coal sludge flood that destroyed a community. Thirty-five years later, some believe similar threats still exist -- and nothing's being done about them.

Survivor Arley Johnson remembers, “This was black slimy water, and it moved houses and railroad tracks and cars and trees, and when the bodies were left they were all black and slimy and had to be washed to see who it was.”

The flood of coal waste caused devastation beyond anyone's comprehension.
And today….Johnson sees similar problems with the mining industry.

He says, “They shouldn't be trying to prove that their extractions have not caused problems, common sense will tell them they've caused some problems and they should be working with communities to put back what's been taken out and that's never happened. It always comes with a fight and that's unfortunate.”

Donetta Blankenship, who's from Mingo County, believes her liver disease was caused by nearby mines. “This [water] comes out our sink. Sometimes it goes through a filter and comes out clear but still has chemicals in it, but the other is when it didn't go through a filter. It comes out, you can see the sludge.”

Others who've been fighting for a new Marsh Fork Elementary School in Raleigh County-- see similarities to Buffalo Creek that terrify them.

On Monday the House passed a resolution asking for a study of sludge underground injection.
Organizers say they're glad to see movement but they're worried about what could happen during the year-long study.

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