Goodbye Massey Coal Dust: Welcome to the Ed Wiley Elementary School!

Jeff Biggers May 4, 2010

Nearly four years ago, retired coal miner and grandfather Ed Wiley walked from Charleston, West Virginia to Washington, DC, asking state and federal officials to intervene in the nightmare situation of his granddaughter’s elementary school. Blanketed by coal dust from a nearby coal silo, Marsh Fork Elementary also sat below a weakened 2.8 billion coal slurry impoundment, as mountaintop removal operations blasted nearby.

Welcome to the Ed Wiley Elementary School!

Thanks to a generous $2.5 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation, the long march for a new elementary school for children in the besieged Coal River Valley hamlet of Sundial, West Virginia, has come to an end: A new school will now be built in a different location.

The campaign for a new school–which should be called the Ed Wiley Elementary School, if any justice is served in West Virginia–has surmounted unthinkable odds. Despite his announcement today, Gov. Joe Manchin has shamefully dragged his feet on the documented issue of school safety and coal dust for years. Last summer, the West Virginia Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision to allow a second coal silo to be built near school grounds.

Along with the Annenberg funds and a gift from the Coal River Mountain Watch, the school also received commitments of $2.6 million from the West Virginia School Building Authority, and $1.5 million from the Raleigh County Board of Education and Massey Energy, which is responsible for the whole mess of coal dust and the dangerous coal slurry impoundment.

Coal River Valley citizens still remain in danger of a potential catastrophe--a 72-foot tidal wide of coal sludge–should the impoundment break.

But tonight, Ed Wiley and his granddaughter, and all the kids and parents in the Coal River Valley are celebrating the new school.

Here’s a clip of Ed’s long-time work to move Marsh Fork Elementary:

And here’s a clip from the forthcoming documentary, On Coal River:This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

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