When I was a little girl, it was not uncommon to have tap water that was orange or brown. I was an adult before I understood that this was due to the surface mine above our water supply. More than 27 percent of the land in Martin County, where I’m from, has been surface mined.
In 2001, a sludge spill left our creeks and rivers running black for months. Life ceased to exist there. Now, over a decade later, there are still no fish. The ducks haven’t returned. Black sediment still lines the creek and cancer rates are suspiciously high, even for a community adjacent to mountaintop removal.
East Kentucky is desperate for economic development. The coal that poisoned our water was also our only real source of income. Recent loss of coal jobs has left the area more desperate than ever.
We needed the Stream Protection Rule to stop coal companies from continuing to pollute our water and we must have clean water to build a new economy. Sen. Mitch McConnell led the charge to kill it, and he has the audacity to claim he cares about coal mining communities. Our lives should matter. We are not just hillbilly trash to be thrown away when McConnell no longer has use for us.