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Entries in West Virginia (1)

Sunday
Jul312011

West Virginia Mining Threatens Local Health

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images(CHARLESTON, W.Va.) -- From the road, West Virginia's mountains look as pristine as ever, but from above, the landscape resembles more of a moonscape. From even higher up in space, entire swathes of countryside appear flattened.

Since the 1970s, 500 peaks and counting have been literally blown up for the coal that's deep underground. It's called mountaintop removal mining, and it's the subject of a new documentary called "The Last Mountain." It now surpasses mining that takes place underground in output.

The mining has already cleared one million acres of forest, an area the size of Delaware, and buried 2,000 miles of streams, causing increased flooding. Selenium and other toxic metals have been found leaching into local waterways.

Health problems have also been reportedly linked to this specific type of mining.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Research finds a significantly higher rate of birth defects in areas where mountaintop removal mining is done compared to other mining and non-mining areas in the Appalachian region.

Higher rates of circulatory, respiratory, central nervous system, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal and urogenital problems were reported through the study, which looked at 1.8 million live births between 1996 and 2003 in central Appalachia.

The mining company, Massey Energy, now owned by Alpha Resources, did not answer repeated requests to speak with ABC News, but it's called the mining cost-effective and safe, and claims to return the landscape close to its original state. West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall agrees.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mountaintop removal mining creates fundamental changes that take years, decades, even hundreds of years to return the landscape to what it was before.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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