Panhandle (W.Va.) Grassroots for Democracy

The Panhandle Grassroots for Democracy is working to improve our corner of eastern West Virginia, our state and our nation.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ed Wiley

Reprinted with kind permisson of faithfull.

(Cross-posted at the Appalachian Voices blog)
Deep in the hollows of WV, something miraculous is happening...

If we fail as parents, we have failed as Americans - Bo Webb

Grandfather Ed Wiley is no traditional environmentalist,
child rights advocate, or political activist. His history and his heritage
run deep into the coal encrusted veins of the Appalachian Mountains.

Ed Wiley has never fought sludge impoundments. He has built them.

He has never boycotted coal. He has extracted it.

He worked in processing plants just like the one less than a football field
from Marsh Fork Elementary School, in Sundial, WV - full of enormous
clanging machinery, explosive gases, and chemically treated coal dust.

He helped build the 2.8 billion gallon
sludge impoundment directly above Marsh Fork Elementary School where his
11-year old granddaughter goes to school and is poisoned everyday by those
same chemicals.

Now this man is spending his retirement walking 455 miles over 40 days and
nights in the heat of summer!


Ed attributes his "wake-up" to his 11-year-old granddaughter Kayla, who
attends Marsh Fork Elementary. After having to pick up the perfectly healthy
and enthused child from school three days in a row, color-drained from her
skin, Ed asked Kayla (who he affectionately calls "Possum") what was going

He puts it as follows.

Kayla had tears running down her face. She said "Gramps,
these coal mines are making us kids sick.

The day this child had tears in her eyes, that's when I woke up.

-Ed Wiley

WELCOME TO MARSH FORK ELEMENTARY (small building with lawn, lower left.) If
that man-made dam broke (and its had NUMEROUS violations) those children
would have 17 seconds to live.

Behind the dam there is 2.8 billion gallons of toxic sludge.
Behind that theres a 1849 acre Mountaintop Removal site that's growing in
size and waste output.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!


The runoff from the site flows into the sludge dam. The Mine Safety and
Health Administration has cited the dam repeatedly for violations in its
construction and maintenance. In 2000, a sludge dam in Kentucky, operated
by the same company
, released over 300 million gallons of sludge in what
the EPA called the worst environmental disaster in the Southeast. The spill
was nearly 30 times the volume of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!

There is a coal
silo less than 300 feet from Marsh Fork Elementary School. The silo houses
tons and tons of toxic chemically treated coal dust. Ever heard of black
lung disease? Well, nowadays you don't have to go into the coal mines to
breathe coal dust and get black lung disease. You just have to go to class.

A survey was performed on 60 households with kids at the school.

Of those 60 households...

-88% had children who were commonly ill

Of those houses with a commonly ill child

-91% had kids with regular respiratory problems

According to Ed Wiley, "15-20 kids leave each day" because they are sick
from the coal dust they are inhaling.

These children deserve a new, safe, local place to learn!

For over TWO YEARS the children of this community have been insulted,
ignored, and brushed aside by big coal interests and the government of West

Now, Grandfather Ed Wiley is taking a radical step. He is taking the voice
of the people of the West Virginia Coal Fields straight on out of the
hollow, straight on out of the county, on passed the West Virginia border,
and all the way to Washington, DC!

The conventional wisdom in WV is that people CAN'T make a difference...and
thats where we come in.

Ed needs your support!

Today, he passed 100 miles. There is no doubt that the man is in fit
enough physical shape to finish the walk well ahead of his exhausted teenage
support team. SCREW CHUCK NORRIS! Here's a real American hero.

The trip has been an amazing success,
Pennies of Promise has a
short video of Ed talking about the trip as well as video of Day 2.

So, how did it get to be this way? So that grandfathers were walking 100s of
miles to raise awareness because the state was ignoring the fact that coal
poisoning their kids and grandkids?

I think of the modern American fixation on oil as a similar situation.
Democratic Senators Byrd and Rockerfeller of West Virginia are good on
almost everything, but remain deep in the pockets of the coal companies.
Local and state officials are the same way. Coal Company "X" can pour
millions and millions of dollars into a race for school board if they have

West Virginia, because of its geographic makeup (mountains and "hollows") is
also very difficult to organize. Some of the most amazing labor battles in
American history - such as The Battle of Blair Mountain - took place in the coal fields of Southern
West Virginia. The Battle of Blair Mountain remains the largest post civil
war battle in American history. Needless to say, the unionizing miners lost
at Blair Mountain to a federal militia, and the only bombs America has ever
dropped on its own soil out of airplanes.

Over 200 years of company towns, violence, union-busting, and exploitation
by the coal companies, the people of West Virginia expect nothing else but
the shit end of the stick time and time again. And that's what they get!
51-54% of America's electric energy comes from coal, and yet the coalfield
counties are some of the poorest counties in the United States of America.

Ed worked on these sites. He has cleaned up spills. He has pumped sludge
around the impoundment to relieve pressure on the violation stricken dam.
And now...he has to spend his retirement WALKING ACROSS AMERICA SO THAT
HUMILIATED if he had to do something like that!!!

And yet - heres Ed, carrying an 8x4 ft flag and standind out like a flower
in a desert...

"If we do not stand up and take part of whats happening in our
Appalachian mountains we all are going to suffer from this." - Ed

Support Ed and Pennies of
, and join Appalachian Voices in following his footsteps
on this journey. Its for the children.