West Virginia’s new job growth brings landfills, drug rehab centers, 4-wheeler trails, and prisons. Now, that’s what I call progress. If coal is such a good thing for West Virginia, then why do they need more prisons and drug rehab centers in mining communities?
West Virginia also became the first U.S. state to have “natural decrease” where deaths exceed births. With all the so-called high-paying jobs that coal produces, you would think that the drug, crime, and death rates would decrease in West Virginia. But it continues to lead the country with a record-high number of meth labs, pregnancy rates, and smoking and pill addictions. Almost all these problems come from the counties with coal as the main source of income.
Little do the ones that fight for coal know, if they continue to fight for coal mining in West Virginia, the mountains will soon disappear. The drinking water and fresh air they rely on everyday will also be gone. Then, once the coal companies have mined every inch of the county, they will move on to the next county until West Virginia is nothing but a hollowed-out flat piece of land.
According to a recent interview with Gordon Lambert, a McDowell County commissioner and ex-linebacker for the Denver Broncos in 1968-69, blames the county’s over reliance on coal for its decline.
“All we did was mine coal. When U.S. Steel was here, everything was booming. But when coal leaves, we have nothing to fall back on.”
Lambert also pointed to recent developments such as a private landfill and the Hatfield-McCoy trail system, which the county wants to be heavily involved in.
“We have to clean our county up,” Lambert said. “Normally when the different news agencies come down (U.S. Route) 52, they have a bad tendency to show all of the dilapidated buildings. There’s a lot of it all over the county. We’re fixing to really address that.”
He added: “We need help with maybe a drug rehab center. There’s hardly a family in this county that isn’t touched by drugs.”
The impacts of coal go well beyond the environmental issues, as some counties in West Virginia are finding out. Once the coal is gone, then the communities that once flourished from it suffer from poverty and despair. Maybe someday West Virginia will realise that most of its problems have been caused by coal.
The commentary that goes with the photo above is interesting:
This picture was taken around 1982, so hopefully, conditions have changed in the coal mines of West Virginia since then. My Uncle Bill worked in the Copeland No.3 Mine for most of his life. He died of Black Lung Disease when he was in his fifties. He was a very hard working man, yet he and my aunt, and their 8 children lived in squalid poverty. Not a very nice commentary on coal mining, but true, nonetheless.
Photo Credit: Big Grey Mare via Flickr