Wyoming County, West Virginia – In the shadow of some of America’s most controversial coal mines, where companies use huge amounts of explosives to blow the tops off mountains, isolated communities say their water has been poisoned.
Now, they must decide if they will fight back against an industry they have relied upon for generations. Casey (not her real name) wears a one-dollar wedding ring now. She bought the blue plastic band after her original ring was ruined by the toxic water that has been pumping into her home for more than a decade.
“I just needed something there,” she says, as she holds the replacement ring up to the light. “I felt empty without it.” She places her original wedding band, now discoloured and corroded, in her palm. Her skin, especially on her hands, has become coarse and sore.
The taps in her house have been worn down, her washing machine frequently stops working, and her bathroom and kitchen have been stained a deep, bloody orange by the pollutants – iron, sulphur, even arsenic – that have seeped into her home’s water supply.
This is Appalachia – the heart of America’s coal country. It is home to some of the poorest and most isolated communities in the US and the legacy of mining, be it the abandoned processing plants or the scarred landscape, can be seen dotted alongside its vast highways.
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