A bluish-hued haze enveloped the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia today. I first noticed it about 30 miles South of Charleston at the bottom of a hill. The way it blurred my vision reminded me of smoke, yet I could not locate a fire. I didn’t notice anything else unusual until reaching the outskirts of Charleston, where the landscape was smothered by this mysterious purple haze. Even more alarming, a noxious chlorine odor choked the air.
I turned on the radio to hear hosts and callers chat bewilderly about the gases until they were interrupted by a messsage from the Emergency Broadcast System advising people to remain inside. Hmm…
Preliminary reports from the WV Department of Environmental Protection (excoriated elsewhere on this blog) suggest an industry is to blame, though they insist they cannot pinpoint the cause. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the purple haze formed in a plume above the massive John Amos electricity plant. This is one of the largest coal fired electric plants in the country.
To quasi-quote Marley Green, a student at JMU and anti-MTR activist, coal is dirty when you dig it [blow up mountains], dirty when you haul it, dirty when you prep it, dirty when you burn it, dirty when you dispose of its ashes, and it certainly dirties up politics!
By the way, Matt Noerpel, a staff member for the group Coal River Mountain Watch, noticed that WV governor Joe Manchin included with his signature on a self-portrait in the DEP headquarters a comment thanking the agency for “promoting a ‘healthy’ environment.” Yes, he put healthy in quotes. See for yourself here: http://www.crmw.net/photo_detail.php?id=113
If gallows humor is your thing, you might find this amusing…