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“It’s just dirt” (with yummy lead, arsenic, and uranium for kick)
On August 25, the day before Marsh Fork Elementary opened for the fall, Massey Energy treated unconcerned teachers, Massey wives, and select media to a tour of the sludge dam above the school. The tour guide told the group, “It’s just dirt; it won’t hurt you,” then licked a blob of sludge.

One of the tourists said, “Now I know the kids are safe.” Apparently she has special vision that can see into the structure of the dam, see microscopic particles in the air, see into the children’s bodies, and chemically analyze air, water, and “dirt.”

The word “dirt” is so vague that it probably has no legal definition, so it can be just about anything. In the case of coal sludge, it includes arsenic, lead, manganese, aluminum compounds, volatile organic compounds, and anything used or removed in processing. A 1993 article published by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory states that coal is, on the average, 1.3 parts per million uranium and 3.2 parts per million thorium (www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html).

This yummy stuff goes into sludge in sludge dams and into the air and ash from power plants. So, cradle to grave, coal is dirty dirt—don’t lick the sludge!


Coal River 

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