The voices of the thousands of Appalachians living with contaminated drinking water have finally been amplified over the past several days with a long-overdue announcement about halting mountaintop removal permits from the EPA and a widely-discussed New York Times story on Sunday about the devastating effects of coal-tainted water.
Goldman Prize recipients Maria Gunnoe (2009) and Judy Bonds (2003), well-known advocates fighting against mountaintop removal coal mining in the Eastern United States, have both spoken out in support of the Obama administration's new commitment to reviewing mining permits granted in the Bush years. The review process will seek to establish, via thorough scientific testing, whether or not the proposed projects threaten regional water supplies in violation of the Clean Water Act. Considering that the very act of mountaintop removal, which entails blasting off the tops of mountains and pushing the heavy metal-laden rubble into neighboring valleys, has been shown to bury streams and seep dangerous chemicals into groundwater supplies, it is likely that the permits will not be approved. This prospect represents a major victory for everyone that has campaigned ceaselessly to help stop this destructive mining practice.
On the heels of the EPA announcement, an in-depth article in the New York Times, "Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering," offers new insights into public drinking water supply contamination. Citing mining waste as well as chemical dumping and emissions from industry as key polluters, the article provides an excellent examination of the many factors, including the shortfalls in the regulatory systems, contributing to the degradation of US drinking water supplies.