Archived Story

Coal industry must consider community health

Published 9:38am Friday, November 23, 2012

I would like to address my fellow citizens of Ironton over a matter of public health and safety. Before I begin, I would like to submit that I am not against business or industry. However, I must, as any good citizen would do, question any business or industry whose unsafe actions endanger people.

I’m sure residents of First and Second streets have noticed trains travelling down the tracks in Ironton carrying coal. I’m sure they have noticed the black clouds of coal dust that darken the sky as the trains pass by.

However questionable and unsafe this is, it is nothing new.

What is new, however, are the mountains of coal that are sitting beside South Third Street. I hardly noticed at first. Then I noticed South Third Street was visibly darkened from the transportation of coal dust. Days later I noticed the smell of coal dust in the air whilst driving on Third Street.

Today as I arrived home from work, and even as I am writing this now, I noticed the smell of coal dust on my side of town on 11th Street.

We know it to be fact that coal dust is harmful and unhealthy. If our health and safety were a concern of the coal industry, they would be more wary in how they transport their products.

They simply are not.

They show that they have a much greater concern for making a profit than they do for the health of communities.

I concede the fact that coal is a necessity to keep our society functioning, but is it too much to ask the industry to be safer, to be cleaner, and to have a concern for the health of the communities in which it operates?

When people start seeing clouds of coal dust in the air, streets coated with fresh coal dust, and start smelling coal dust on the opposite side of town, it shows how little concern they truly have.

The fact is that something needs to change.

Eric Melvin


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  • Poor Richard

    Eric, what you have observed is a small example of what the small towns of WV and KY have endured for years. In the 1960s and 70s, when coal was king, every orifice of WV was covered in coal dust; the homes, roads, cars, trees, absolutely everything was black, filth was everywhere. The coal industry wants everyone to believe those were the ‘good ole days’ but those were the good ole days for the coal companies – not for the people that lived it and those areas were as disgusting as they are today.

    The same greedy resource companies that literally robbed the citizens of WV and KY of their land want to keep the people working for pennies so they can rake in the profits. Travel to southern WV and eastern KY and you will find nothing, absolutely NOTHING the resource companies have done for the people that live there and even worse, the legislators let the resource companies get away with every possible atrocity.

    Traveling through Mingo County you will also find the new houses being built in the flood plains just a few feet from the waterways – a benefit to all taxpayers in that we will have to pay for the flood waters taking those new houses during the next flood disaster.

    Maybe folks should realize that coal contains PAHs among other things, and maybe, like you, Eric, they need to pay attention to the clouds of coal dust flying off railroad cars through the middle of towns or the piles of coal along our water ways with runoff into our rivers. But, as anyone will find that has dealt with the railroad is they have more power in this country than god and the resource companies are not far behind.

    Capitalism is about one thing – greed – and there are certain industries in the US that excel at it.

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