Unsafe Water Effects The Health Of Entire Communities

by Optimum Nutrition Admin
1 Comment

Contaminated water can have tremendous consequences on the health of entire communities.

Throughout history, extremely contaminated water has been identified as the origin of phenomenally high disease and mortality rates for entire communities. In many cases, people had to leave their homes and belongings in order to save the lives of their families. Thousands of these occurrences from around the world could be cited; however, one of the largest areas to be devastated by persistently high mortality rates and incidents of severe health disorders currently exists right here in the United States. A research study conducted by Dr. Michael Hendryx and Dr. Melissa Ahern in 2009 (“Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost”) found “increased rates of mortality and morbidity in Appalachia due to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Compared to other regions of the country, coal-mining areas have had the highest mortality rates every year from 1979-2005. The highest mortality rates are in areas with the highest levels of mining.” In 2008, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked the health of the residents of Kentucky and West Virginia, the two states with most strip mining operations, second to last and dead last respectively in the United States.

Coal slurry, which is a byproduct of treating coal with a mixture of water and chemicals, is extremely toxic and leaches into the immediate groundwater, contaminating nearby private wells and public water supplies. As many as 60 different caustic chemicals are used to wash coal which permeates the soil along with the heavy metals that were present in the coal. In Prenter Hollow, WV, over 300 residents have filed civil complaints against nine coal companies for the contamination of their drinking water due to the dumping of coal slurry in underground mine shafts. The residents claim that the contaminated water is directly responsible for serious health conditions, many of which have resulted in unnecessary fatalities.

The New York Times published an article highlighting Clean Water Act violations occurring in the area of Prenter Hollow. It reported that “medical professionals in the area say residents show unusually high rates of health problems. A survey of more than 100 residents conducted by a nurse hired by Mrs. Hall-Massey’s lawyer indicated that as many as 30 percent of people in this area have had their gallbladders removed and as many as half the residents have significant tooth enamel damage, chronic stomach problems and other illnesses. That research was confirmed through interviews with residents.” (“Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering,” Charles Duhigg, New York Times, September 12, 2009)

Even communities located far downstream from strip mining sites frequently experience contamination of their drinking water supplies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that iron and manganese levels surpass drinking water standards in approximately 70% of the wells located in regions where mining occurs. In a 2003 Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, the EPA reported that “stream chemistry monitoring efforts show significant increases in conductivity, hardness, sulfate and selenium concentrations downstream of [mining] operations.” These contaminated waters are the source of drinking water for millions of people in major cities located further downstream.


  1. Frank February 23, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    We lived in an area that had astronomically high rates of lymphoma per capita. Although contaminated water was suspected as the cause, no one actually came forward to make that suspicion a definitive reason. We got the hell out of there. Of course, we filter all our water now.

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