The regional Environmental Protection Agency office in Philadelphia serves the region including Appalachia. In the wake of the recent large-scale chemical spill in West Virginia, dozens of environmentalists gathered at the EPA office Wednesday afternoon to push for greater enforcement of the Clean Water Act.
With some demonstrators dressed in hazmat suits, and many carrying signs to “stop mountaintop removal,” the group staged a die-in, calling out the names of the chemicals used in coal mining that they say are making their way into the water supply. In a bit of street theater, protesters fell to the ground as if they had been poisoned.
William Kramer, a staff organizer for the Sierra Club present at the demonstration, said the goal was to get the EPA to increase standards on water pollution.
“What’s happening right now is states are setting their own standards, and they’re trying to set them low, to sort-of beat the federal government to the punch,” said Kramer. “And that means poor quality water for the citizens of Appalachia.”
Several protesters came from West Virginia, including a former coal miner, Chuck Nelson.
“I’m against mountain-top removal, for what it’s doing to our communities,” Nelson said. “And it’s no secret what mountaintop removal does. It poisons our water; it destroys our communities — it literally just wipes them out.”
In a statement, the EPA says one of the agency’s water program managers met with several demonstrators to discuss water quality concerns in West Virginia, and that it was useful to hear specific concerns from citizens.