Oh Goody, Coal Ash and the Schools

WHAT’S THAT SMELL?

January 2010 Comprehensive Educational Facilities Plan comment:

“The sewer smell at the [Mylan Park] school also remains problematic.”

In 2006, Mylan Park (Consolidated) Elementary opened at an old mine site where toxic coal ash was dumped, many tons.The State Journal notes that north-central West Virginia is “ground zero” for coal ash and its toxic use:

“…when written into a surface mine permit, [coal ash’s] combination with coal mine refuse during reclamation may be designated a ‘beneficial use’ by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, according to the Division of Mining and Reclamation’s permitting handbook. The simple idea behind it, according to Jeff Stant, is that the alkaline CCW material neutralizes the highly acidic northern Appalachian coal wastes and prevents acid mine drainage. Stant has studied CCW for two decades and directs the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project’s Coal Combustion Waste Initiative. The reality, Stant said, is much more complex. A 2006 National Academy of Sciences study found that CCW contains ‘metals and other elements, such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead, in quantities that can potentially be harmful to human health or the environment.’ Stant cited research showing that, rather than offering a beneficial synergy, the chemical interactions between acidic mine refuse and alkaline CCW create ideal conditions for leaching the heavy metals from the ash. ‘They’re creating a more dangerous scenario,’ Stant said. ‘They’re maximizing risk’.”

In a separate article, The State Journal further describes the hazardous nature of coal ash:

“Coal combustion residues, or CCRs, commonly referred to as ‘coal ash,’ include fly and bottom ash as well, as boiler slag, scrubber residues and other combustion materials. They contain contaminants such as mercury, cadmium and arsenic, the EPA wrote in its media release, which can leach into groundwater and into drinking water sources and are associated with cancer and other serious health effects.”

Sometimes coal ash is used in mine mitigation. Would it be used on the Mileground as part of mine fill under the “green” school? Would it then leach into neighboring WVU pastureland? Sometimes coal ash is used to make concrete or wallboard. Was such concrete or wallboard used to build Monongalia County Schools? Does the BOE even know? This should not be.

Yesterday’s Dominion Post reports on another mine in that general area seeking to expand, the Patriot Mining surface mine near Cassville. Cass Elementary was one of the schools consolidated in Mylan Park Elementary in 2006.

“Betsy Lawson lives near the Patriot Mining surface mine near Cassville, and is one of the residents concerned about a permit application to expand the mine. Among the problems, she said, is fly ash trucked to and dumped on the site to prevent acid mine drainage. Fly ash – derived from coal combustion – has metals that can pollute streams, she said. ‘Dumping fly ash is no solution at all. …They just replace one bad thing with another’.”

Mylan Park lands may be an acceptable site to occasionally gather for such events as concerts, balloon festivals, or ball games but to spend every other day of the year there as a young child? What do air and soil and water tests show?

Every single Monongalia County school should have its indoor and outdoor air and environment tested and monitored. School indoor air quality is a problem nationally and there is no reason to expect that Mon Schools’ air quality is not part of the larger problem, and every reason to think it is. Poor air quality and light quality has been proven to lower test scores as well as negatively impact health.

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