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100 Days, 100 Voices

Still fighting 100-year-old pollution, some worry it could get worse.

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Environmentalism is a bad word, but we’re just trying to clean up the streams. — Stanley Jennings

 

Stanley Jennings: When I worked in the coal mines we had meetings where the safety man would come and say, ‘You got to follow the law. You got to follow these regulations.’ And he said every one of these was ‘wrote in blood. There’s a reason why there is a regulation, because people were being killed because they didn’t do this.’ Right now it looks like they’re trying to deregulate everything, which might set our cause back 50 years. It’s just so hard. Some of the EPA people, they have more or less been muzzled. It’s gonna be sad for the people that have to live here. When I was working on a strip job, the company I was working for was hiding things, not treating the water, this sort of thing. They taught me a lot about a ‘loophole’ where you could go without treating the water and this and that. I told them, ‘This ain’t really right.’ The watershed group, we were trying to protect our water. But, here I was working in a coal company destroying it at the same time. So, I couldn’t be a hypocrite. So, I quit the coal company and then I started to help in the watershed.

We’re getting the people that before would be pretty quiet. They’re all excited because we’ve got minnows in this stream and nobody living around here has ever seen fish in this stream. There’s very few people that’s 90-years-old. And I think we’re getting the backing of the community now more. If we go back to where they can mine coal and not even worry about cleaning the streams because of a change in the laws, how do you fight it? I don’t know how to fight it yet.

Paul Baker: Over the 150 years that coal mining has been in West Virginia, West Virginians have never really benefited that much from it. There have been billions of tons of coal taken out of West Virginia and we’re still the poorest state in the nation. Why is that? It’s because the benefits of coal mining don’t trickle down to the people. We just need to do something and we have to change the politics in this state. The natural gas industry is coming into the state and they’re going to take out billions and billions of dollars worth of natural resource and the people of West Virginia probably won’t benefit much at all.

Things have improved over the years since the ’70s. The Clean Water Act, those laws were passed and implemented, helping to protect the waters and to help clean up the water. We don’t want to give up on that and go back. This might be happening now with the administration. The new administration seems to have a single-minded attitude that they want to roll back a lot of environmental protection laws. Whenever we see something we don’t like we have to do something. We can’t just sit out, we have to be activists.

If Baker could talk to President Trump: One thing I would do is invite him to come here and I would show him what has happened and the results of past mining practices and the improvements we’ve made, what we’re trying to do and what we might be able to accomplish. But we need the support of the law. We need the support of the Environmental Protection Agency. And it seems to me that he’s trying to take all of that away.

Richard Collier: Stop saying ‘War on Coal’ because it was originally a bogus, phony, artificial construct designed to benefit only the coal operators, the owners and company and the shareholders. But it never benefits coal miners simply because it’s a strictly and totally market-driven commodity. If the true cost of coal were ever told, on a ledger sheet, instead of what it supposedly costs, the cost of coal becomes astronomical to the point of being almost illegal. You’ve got to count costs in terms of health and the environment too.

Left to right: Richard Collier, 74, Stanley Jennings, 67, and Paul Baker, 73, in Maple Run, a tributary of Little Sandy Creek in Taylor County, West Virginia.

Some streams in their neighborhood have been polluted for perhaps a century.  Richard Collier, 74, a retired entrepreneur, assists Paul Baker with water testing in the Save the Tygart Watershed Association’s laboratory in Grafton. Stanley Jennings, 67, a businessman and woodworker, visits the streams every day to test the acidity and check on the dosers. Baker, 73, is a retired chemist who runs the testing lab. The three are members of the Save the Tygart Watershed Association, a group that has had various projects over the years to improve water quality.

Mine drainage pollutes thousands of miles of streams in West Virginia. These photos and 360 video were made along Maple Run, the Left Fork of Little Sandy Creek and the confluence of Little Sandy Creek. While there are not studies that go back 100 years, locals will tell you they’ve never seen fish in some of these creeks.

A doser dispenses between 1 and 2 tons of lime into Maple Run each day.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection runs lime dosers on the creeks to reduce the acidity of the water and cause metals to precipitate out of the water. According to the WVDEP, the preparation work on the two sites was approximately $50,000. The Left Fork of Little Sandy doser cost $41,000 and Maple Run doser cost $54,000. In 2016, it cost $53,000 to run the Maple Run doser and Left Fork of Little Sandy cost $130,000 for the year. The bond money forfeited by the mining companies does not equal the cost of remediation and reclamation. According to the DEP, bond forfeitures from Maurice Jennings permits totaled $77,600 and from Mangus Coal totaled $32,328 for mines along Maple Run.

 

Polluted by Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) at its headwaters, the Left Fork of Little Sandy Creek in Preston County West Virginia has been biologically dead for nearly a century according to Jennings. The creek is treated with lime in an effort to neutralize the acidic water, so that by the time the creek reaches the Little Sandy, it has a neutral pH level and metals have precipitated out.

In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. If you have an idea for ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ please contact Nancy Andrews on Twitter @NancyAndrews or email at nancy.andrews [at] mail.wvu.edu.

'Islam in Appalachia'

“Appalachian American Arab Muslim” Malak Khader

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“To be an Appalachian American Arab Muslim … that’s a big title. I feel like I’m wearing so many hats at the same time.” Malak Khader of Huntington, West Virginia finds herself constantly fighting stereotypes about her religion and her home state. She started a multiethnic Girl Scout Troop at the Muslim Association of Huntington mosque. “The Girl Scout values align with Islamic values. It teaches you to build your character, it teaches you community service, it teaches you to educate people and be educated yourself.”

Malak’s full interview is part of our 360° video series Muslim in Appalachia. This series enables viewers to step into the worlds of Appalachian Muslims to experience what it means to navigate Muslim and Appalachian identity while challenging stereotypes of both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘He’s a Mini Version of my Dad’

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Jakari Tinsley, age 2, lives in Lynch, Kentucky. His favorite word is "No." Photo by Nancy Andrews

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us.”

Jakari’s favorite food is chicken nuggets. His favorite word is “No.” He likes to play basketball with his mini-basketball hoop and watch “Blaze and the Monster Machines” and “PAW Patrol.”

At age 2, and living in Lynch, Kentucky, Jakari Tinsley has his life in front of him. “I hope he grows up and goes to college and gets an education. Whatever he wants to do I will follow him and support him,” his mother said.

Jakari is wearing his grandfather’s hat. “He thinks he’s a mini version of my dad,” said Jakari’s mom, Marisha Tinsley. “Whatever dad does, he has to do too.”

“I hope he becomes a God-serving young man, that he loves everybody as God loves us,” his grandfather Terry Tinsley said, “that he get in a profession that helps others, like a doctor or lawyer.”

Lynch was founded in 1917 as a U.S. Steel mining operation. At its peak it was home to more than 10,000 people, but now in 2017 less than 700 live within its borders.


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at nancy@nancyandrews.com. She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews

 

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100 Days, 100 Voices

‘We’re People – We’re Just Wired a Little Different.’

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The weekend of July 29, 2017 brought the first gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer festival to Wheeling, West Virginia with several hundred attending the Ohio Valley Pride. We talked to some of the attendees about why they came to the event:

“Today, I was around people like me. I could be me.” – Andrea Potter

“We’re here to celebrate,” Katreina Kilgore explained her support of her daughter Andrea Potter. “We’re here to celebrate that she didn’t hold back, that she is going to be herself.”

The family lives in Moundsville, West Virginia.  “We struggle,” she said of the entire family’s acceptance, “that’s why I think I am so proud of her.”

Melinda Tober, left, of Windsor Heights, West Virginia came to Pride with Kael Thomas, and Chelsea Camcho of Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“No body wants to live in the closet and I think that they shouldn’t have to.” – Melinda Tober

“I’ve been out and proud since 2010,” said Tober. “It’s always looked down upon — so hush, hush, “ she said, explaining that she believes the event such as this help to increase awareness and reduce hate crimes.

Hailee Parker, lives in Williamstown, West Virginia and grew up in Wheeling. She came to the event with her sister, Brittin Orum who lives in Wheeling. Parker performs as “Donte Dickles”.

“We’re people – we’re just wired a little different.” – Hailee Parker

“To be part of it. To walk around the streets in drag and part of the first pride – to just be home for the first time in a long time, “ Parker said. “This is my home. We both grew up here… I feel we have come very far. There are still nicks in the road, and it’s not the end of us fighting for equality… It upsetting to meet a person who is not supportive. All you can do is hold your head high and just leave it at that – with respect… Be yourself, love yourself. Hold your head high and forget what other people think of you.”

Miranda Thompson with daughter Ava Thompson, Terri Laquaglia, with daughter Regan Laquaglia and Maddie Crum attended the first Ohio Valley Pride together.

“Some people don’t understand that we all have to be equal so the world can be at peace.” – Regan Laquaglia

“We care about people and we know that no matter what that person thinks about us – underneath all their hatefulness there could be a good person. ” – Ava Thompson.

Landen Menough, of Martin’s Ferry, Ohio (stage name Miss Rilee Rae Michaels) was emcee of the event.

“If you leave here with one thing today, leave knowing that you are all family to me. You pick your own family and your family are the ones that accept you to no bounds of the earth.”— Landen Menough’s message to the crowd.

Andrew Vargo has lived in Wheeling, West Virginia all his life.

“There’s strength in numbers. We share love and companionship. We might not all get along, but we all share the same view of our rights… I see a ton of smiles, people from all sorts of places.” — Andrew Vargo

Jordan Sewell, aka “Xenus”, performs for the crowd at Heritage Port. 

“It takes guts to come out here in public in drag.” – Jordan Sewell

“Worrying about how to live day to day, being who you are and how you should show who you are — it’s hard,” explained Sewell. Today, “ it feels amazing, a feeling of completeness… I feel like I am now, a little bit – no, a lot more comfortable being who I want to be rather than what others want me to be. It takes guts to come out here in public in drag. Just doing it for the first time – walking out in pubic – outside,” was new. “Never outside, behind closed doors, yes.”

Jordan Sewell, with his mother, Rauslynn Platt as she films the performances. They live in Bridgeport, Ohio.

“I am not gonna hide I was heartbroken, but he’s my son – and my daughter. I’ll support whatever he wants to do in life. He seems so free. He’s so happy and that’s what I want to him to be, happy.” – Rauslynn Platt, Sewell’s mother


In ‘100 Days, 100 Voices’ Nancy Andrews presents photographs depicting the diversity of voices across Appalachia. These portraits strive to show the varied faces, passions, issues and opinions from around the region. These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Nancy Andrews at nancy@nancyandrews.com. She’s on Twitter @NancyAndrews and on Instagram @NancyAndrews

Editor’s Note: This article has been revised to correctly reflect that Jordan Sewell lives in Bridgeport, Ohio.

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