Mrs. Hill went to Washington ... and came down on the side of the mountains.
Joanne Golden Hill, a Burnside resident with deep roots in the community, spent last week in Washington D.C. with the Alliance for Appalachia group, which bills themselves as “a regional coalition” dedicated to ending the practice of coal mining by mountaintop removal.
Mountaintop removal has become a significant issue in Kentucky, and a highly controversial one, striking at the heart of the age-old struggle between the drive of industry and concern about the environment. Explosives are used to expose coal seams on mountains, with the land known as “overburden” being moved, often radically changing the landscape and resulting in pollution. Proponents of coal mining have often countered that mountaintop removal is a cost-efficient way of getting their job done — but it’s not that okay by Hill, a product of the Bluegrass state’s mountain region.
“Ending mountaintop removal is very important to me for many reasons,” said Hill, who is originally from Lynch, Ky. — one of the communities surrounding Black Mountain, the highest such natural structure in the state.
“I have witnessed my cemeteries marked for destruction on Black Mountain by the coal company,” she continued. “My family living in these areas loses land and life to mountaintop removal ... and they are left with toxic water and destruction.”
Hill stated that cancer rates are 50 times higher in areas affected by mountaintop removal practices, with a steep spike in birth defects as well.
“I have seen this and have done water testing in eastern Kentucky on the toxic streams that run by houses,” said Hill. “The land bleeds orange from acid mine drainage. It also comes out the faucet where they drink and bathe.”
It’s something Hill would very much like to see stop. As a member of the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Southern Appalachia Mountain Stewards groups, Hill went to participate in the 8th Annual “End Mountaintop Removal Week” in the nation’s capital, which ran May 4-8.