Got water? Got energy?
Sometimes, they aren’t compatible.
Streams and rivers the world over have a long history of pollution from myriad sources, including agriculture, human settlements, and industry. However, the current contamination of waterways caused by extraction of coal, oil, and gas creates severe, permanent damage. The burden of mitigating this damage will be borne by our children and our grandchildren.
Many miles of polluted streams course through Appalachian communities. Unfortunately, in as little as two or three generations, polluted water becomes so common as to be seen as normal, and the notion of water that can be fished or swum in becomes novel. Our society’s increasing demand for energy, most of which is derived from fossil fuels, puts bodies of water at a greater risk of pollution.
TMI’s Appalachia Program offers watershed and stream sampling educational programs to students. It is also a member of the “Choose Clean Water” coalition, focusing on the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. We are committed to spreading public awareness of the potential for disaster resulting from the intersection of water and energy, and promoting greater public involvement in discussions about the management of natural resources.
The collision between energy and water is the subject of an art exhibit that the Appalachia Program has sponsored. Dunkard Creek, a 43-mile stream that flows through both West Virginia and Pennsylvania, was contaminated by energy industry wastewater in 2009. The contamination led to a toxic bloom of golden algae, which killed all creatures with gills in the waterway. Now, a community of artists with ties to the watershed has come together to memorialize the species that died in the creek that September. Ninety artists, and ninety species are the focus of the exhibit, which will travel to communities for the next two years. See the web site about the exhibit here. Learn more about Dunkard Creek and its residents with our one-minute trailer, or a longer video with interviews of local inhabitants.
Methane Energy Report
Additionally, we’ve taken on projects that explore energy sources that are not derived from fossil fuels, and are less likely to damage streams, rivers, and water supplies. We examined and then promoted landfill methane as a feasible, renewable source of energy at public landfills. Three facilities in the state are now capturing methane before it is emitted as a greenhouse gas; one of them is now producing electricity by burning the methane. See our report here.
TMI has released a report on barriers to wind development in central Appalachia. Wind energy has its admirers and detractors; the report provides insight into measures that could soften the negative impacts of wind for communities, while pointing out environmental challenges that the industry has not successfully come to terms with. Find the 2012 report here (9.2MB). And check out this resource list for community wind in Appalachia.
TMI's Appalachia program has been empowering communities to make a transition away from coal. In March 2013, TMI installed a solar panel array at the Morgantown farmer's market. June brought TMI a second solar array on our earth shelter office building at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center. This display will be incorporated into the existing educational curriculum shared with local students. These projects will provide opportunities for community residents to participate in solar power generation by creating ownership structures that address cost and administrative barriers to solar energy. They will also help identify improvements to state and local-level regulations and build support for legislation enabling the continual growth of solar and other renewables in the region.