Mountaintop Removal

Imagine a murky orange stream in the middle of a silent forest. There is nothing but a destroyed ecosystem all around. How did a beautiful forest go to a dying mountainside? The answer: coal mining. 

Mountaintop removal is a way to get to coal in places where the coal is inside hilly and steep terrain. This is practiced mainly in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Mountaintops are literally removed in order to get to the coal. This might not seem as much of a problem at first, but it does extensive damage to the communities and ecosystems around. How much damage? 

Many often do not realize the sheer amount of harm done by mountaintop removal. This activity can take out about 800 feet of mountains. This means absolutely everything must be cleared out before. Forests are demolished, animals have nowhere to go, and waterways go from crystal clear to opaque orange. Since the whole region is drastically affected by this, animals are cut off from the whole ecosystem and left to fend for themselves. During these operations, lots and lots of chemicals are released from the coal mines. Creeks that you could previously drink out of go to toxic waste that can kill you. The fastest way for them to clear out the land is to burn the forest down. The smoke from these fires goes into the atmosphere and reduces the air quality. These were some of the obvious effects of mountaintop removal, but what about the other part, the human factor?

There are many health issues involving the communities near the mountaintop removal. The closer someone lives near the mountain where the coal is being excavated, the more likely they are to die or get diseases such as COPD, lung cancer, or cardiovascular disease. This is because tiny air particles are sent out during all the operations. These particles can easily get into the lungs and stay there which causes all the issues. The babies born near a mountaintop removal site are 181% more likely to have birth defects. This is a dramatic increase. The coal contains tons of pollutants that find their way into the local streams. The heavy toxins in the new water cause the water to turn a muddy orange or a blackish color. Most of the water in the region ends up becoming contaminated sooner or later. Loose boulders can also fall off the mountain. Many times when they fall they can seriously injure residents of the area. Paying for hospital bills is another issue. Many of the people in the area are poor. Mountaintop removal doesn’t require much employment, and since there isn’t anything else going on, many end up unemployed. Thereby resulting in a weak economy. 

One could argue that mountaintop removal provides coal, and that it is regulated. Even though you do have to get a permit if you want to practice mountaintop removal, there are so many cons. Since we are already making a progression to reduce our dependence on nonrenewable resources, banning mountaintop removal would be a step towards our goal. It may seem extreme at first, but just putting regulations isn’t helping much. The communities around the mountain are still suffering. The cons outweigh the pros by a lot when it comes to mountaintop removal. It is an outdated activity that is only causing harm. Instead of relying on coal we should look into other options, such as wind, solar, or hydropower. By doing so, we can ensure a healthy future for the communities in Appalachia. 

 

Sources: 

https://e360.yale.edu/features/a-troubling-look-at-the-human-toll-of-mountaintop-removal-mining