Letter to the Editor

Shout it from the mountaintop

Friday, June 22, 2012


Imagine the Ozark or Ouachita Mountains stretching into the horizon. Now imagine those same mountains -- where the pristine headwaters of the White, Kings and Buffalo rivers begin -- decimated by heavy explosives in order to mine thin seams of coal typically no thicker than eight inches wide.

This process, known as Mountaintop removal mining, occurs in the Appalachian Mountains every day. So far over 500 mountains and 2,000 miles of streams have been buried and polluted by this devastating process. Arsenic, selenium, mercury, and other heavy metals that were trapped in mountain rock are dislodged and dumped into streams. These pollutants travel into Appalachian communities' water sources and cause a myriad of health problems, including a cancer rate 10 percent above the national average and a birth defect rate 42 percent higher than the national average. The process is highly mechanized, generating more profits for coal companies but fewer jobs for Appalachian communities.

This summer I've been in our nation's capital working with people from Appalachia to help end the deadly mining practice. During my time here I've been struck by the similarities between Appalachians and Arkansans. They are a hardy people, rooted in their traditions and their sense of fairness. Please join them in their fight to end this health and environmental crisis by contacting your representative and urging them to support the Clean Water Protection Act.

The lack of a direct relationship between Arkansas and mountaintop removal is no excuse to endorse the insidious practice through ignorance, inaction and indifference.

Dillon Buckner