Northern Kentucky Chapter does first mountain witness tour
Members of the Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, along with members of Northern Kentucky University's Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students (ECOS), recently visited eastern Kentucky to test water in communities impacted by mountaintop removal mining, see reclamation, and visit a mountaintop removal site. This was the first opportunity many of them had to see the impact of mountaintop removal up close, and member Melinda Simonds set the tone for the day emphasizing the need to "utilize our different voicers to come together" and help amplifly our message.
The group of roughly 16 met up for a carpool in Walton, Kentucky, and drove to meet up with their guide in Prestonsburg at the Mountain Arts Center. Members asked questions about the area, including about concerns over a variety of issues including migration from the mountains, and learned of work of ally organizations like Stay Together Appalachian Youth (STAY). From there they went to Jenny Wiley State Park for a quick lunch.
During lunch there was a discussion about water quality, the challenges in the local economy, and the local political landscape, as well as other challenges people in eastern Kentucky face. The discussion and issues impacting different communities in our state came as a shock particularly to one new member who had moved to Kentucky from Italy.
After Jenny Wiley members learned about KFTC's work with water testing to protect clean drinking water, and took the opportunity to help test a Stratton Branch. Members recorded conductivity levels (which were 4 to 5 times greater than life could withstand) and pH levels (which were an even 7.)
From there the group drove to Stonecrest, seeing abandoned valley fills along the way. The chapter noted how the signature reclaimed site not only did not match surrounding untouched sites, and learned that properties there were sinking, while the water running nearby had been tested at higher levels of conductivity than accepted (500 SI).
The group ended their day by visiting the Bent Mountain surface mine area, where mountaintop removal mining had claimed what had been the highest point in Pike County. Members had a variety of reactions, one woman even breaking down in tears upon seeing the devastation and learning about the other issues that plague people the population
Visiting what had been the highest point, and looking out to see active and reclaimed valley fills and contour mines moved many of those who came to the event, moving some to tears. Hope Marksberry, President of ECOS, described her feelings and reaction as making her "feel speecheless... The documentaries don't compare to seeing it. People need to see this, and understand why we need regulations. People need to come together. This [mountain witness tour] has been eye opening."
Rosie Santos summed up many of the groups feelings, and spoke about what she hoped both organizations could do in Northern Kentucky, saying,"(From a) student and future educator's pespective the most important thing we can do is educate people.". Many of the members of both organizations agreed, and hope to build upon this shared experience to renew their efforts to fight for clean water and a just economic transition that will preserve and protect our states culture and heritage.