Those of us who live in Appalachia know that more than 6,650 stream miles in Central Appalachia run orange due to the impact of acid mine drainage. Although most of the mines that caused this drainage were long ago abandoned, this legacy of pollution is expected to continue for decades, creating polluted streams throughout economically depressed communities with few career opportunities for the current generation of families in this region.
Our history may be one of extraction, but our future is one of innovation. The mines of Appalachia fueled the cities that created the middle class. Although the wealth created by Appalachian labor now belongs to others, we remain proud of our mining heritage and our role in building the America we all know today.
"We went from finding ZERO fish before AMD treatment to finding SEVENTEEN species of native fish that had returned!"
My drive to do this work comes from a profound belief in the natural world’s inherent value and right for existence, along with a deep concern for my fellow humans. The fish, macroinvertebrates, and other aquatic organisms that formerly lived in streams decimated by AMD deserve to be in those streams. The people who live in the old coal towns near these decimated streams deserve to live in an unpolluted environment where streams don’t run orange—and deserve to have access to meaningful jobs they can use to build a life and family in this region. I consider AMD and abandoned minelands an environmental and social justice issue. I believe that if these rivers were running through a more populated and affluent region, many of these issues would already have been addressed. Healthy people need healthy environments, and healthy economies need healthy people and healthy environments. Reclamation of abandoned minelands and treatment of AMD has positive impacts on the economic health of a region and its people.