The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

May 8, 2013

Training on blasting impacts, regulation to be held May 13 at SALS in Beards Fork


BEARDS FORK — The Coalfield Environmental Health Project (CEHP) is hosting a training for residents of Fayette County to understand laws that regulate blasting on surface mines on Monday, May 13, at 6 p.m. in the SALS Community Center in Beards Fork.

The last CEHP training focused on protecting water quality in streams and drinking water supplies in proximity to surface mining. This training will shift focus to blasting, its impacts and the regulations that give residents some measure of protection. Topics will include:

-- Pre-blast surveys. A pre-blast survey is provided by the coal company to residents living within half a mile of the mine area to document the condition of the home prior to blasting. It is an important tool and making sure yours is done correctly is essential for proving that blasting has damaged your home.

-- Identifying common types of damage that blasting causes, including cracks in foundations and walls, structural twisting, and other damage, and how to distinguish likely blasting damage from natural wear and tear on a structure.

-- Best practices for submitting complaints to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and when to go to the Federal Office of Surface Mining. The WV DEP is responsible for enforcing surface mine regulations, and the Federal OSM oversees the DEP’s enforcement and can be called on to compel the DEP to enforce regulations in instances where their regulatory actions are inadequate.

Rob Goodwin of Coal River Mountain Watch will be the lead trainer.

All residents living in proximity to surface mining or concerned about its impacts are encouraged to attend. If you have a specific problem with blasting in your area, you are invited to share it and have it addressed in the training.

The last CEHP event featured Dr. Michael Hendryx in a discussion of the links between surface mining and public health. Hendryx has made significant contributions to the body of science that correlates higher rates of cancer, heart disease, birth defects, and poor health with proximity to mountaintop removal coal mining. Though correlation has been well established in these studies, no studies have been done to identify the specific causation of health risks in environments impacted by mountaintop removal coal mining. Dust and air pollution mobilized by blasting is a likely cause of pervasive health problems.

Surface mining operations are affecting a growing portion of Fayette County’s communities land and waterways. In response, the Southern Appalachian Labor School, in collaboration with the Plateau Action Network, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and with the support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Justice, has launched the Coalfield Environmental Health Project to keep area residents informed of developments related to surface mining in the county. The project consists of community forums to disseminate and discuss information and trainings at which residents learn the ins and outs of existing laws that give them some measure of protection from surface mining impacts, and if enforced to the fullest extent would significantly limit the viability of large scale surface mining in West Virginia.