Award of Excellence
"THE HUMAN TOLL: MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL MINING"
Rhonda McCormick flushes out her son's catheter as she cares for him in their home in Prenter, WV. Josh was diagnosed with kidney cancer and is one of the many residents of this small town who have had kidney issues, gallbladder problems, or some type of cancer, including brain tumors. Many of the residents believe these health issues may be a result of their contaminated water, which they attribute to decades of mountaintop and underground mining activities near their small town. Water tests have discovered high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, manganese, and other chemicals at levels that federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage to the kidneys and nervous system. These are the same chemicals that are found in coal slurry -- what is left over after coal is cleaned. The slurry is held in holding ponds or injected into abandoned mine shafts underground. Many believe that the blasting has disrupted the geological strata to allow seepage of this slurry into their water table. A group of residents have filed a lawsuit against several coal companies that mine the area.