Acid Mine Drainage
In towns throughout Appalachia, unregulated mining prior to 1977 created a huge environmental problem called Acid Mine Drainage. Inside abandoned mines, ground water reacts with pyrite and oxygen, creating sulfuric acid which dissolves metals in the surrounding earth, mostly iron and aluminum. These metals-laden waters cause further problems as AMD reacts with air, creating iron oxide that coats stream beds, kills the bottom of the food chain and destroys the base for a healthy stream ecosystem.
The Deeper Problem
While AMD is one of the more visible reminders of the legacy of "King Coal", it is hardly the only one. The physical remnants of old coal towns and the scars of pre-regulatory mining can be seen throughout Appalachia, but invisible to the eye is the disorientation created by the rapid closure of many coal companies in the years following WW II. For decades, in towns like Vintondale, the company was not just the employer of the miners; it was the de facto government and the center of the town's existence. When these companies went out of business, miners were left without work and communities were left abandoned, surrounded by environmental devastation and economic depression. When a mining company left town, the company store, the only store permitted to do business in the town, also closed. The railroads stopped transportation of passengers and cargo, leaving hotels empty and commerce at a stand-still. Seeing this challenge reverberate throughout the hills of Appalachian Coal Country, Dr. T Allan Comp, AMD&ART Founder, brought the team together that started the AMD&ART project. The colliery's history and town's heart were buried under a wasteland that neither honored the past nor created opportunities for the future of the people of Vintondale.
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