Saturday, February 26, 2011

Remembering Buffalo Creek

39 years ago today, the tragic Buffalo Creek flood killed 125 people, injured 1,100, left over 4,000 homeless and obliterated the town of Saunders, West Virginia.  The Buffalo Creek tragedy should be a stark reminder of the dangers when there aren't adequate regulations and corporate earnings outweigh concerns about safety.

The flood followed the collapse of the #3 Pittston Dam when approximately 132 million gallons of black waste water rushed through Buffalo Creek hollow.


According to the WV Division of Culture and History,
"In the days preceding February 26, 1972, rain fell almost continuously, although experts later claimed this was typical for late winter weather in the area. Buffalo Mining officials, concerned about the condition of the highest dam, measured water levels every two hours the night of the twenty-fifth. 
Although a Pittston official in the area was alerted to the increasing danger, the residents of the hollow were not informed. The company sent away two deputy sheriffs, who had been dispatched to assist with potential evacuations. Despite the lack of warning from company officials, some residents sensed the danger and moved to higher ground."
We would be wise to learn the lessons of Buffalo Creek as we debate new regulations (and the lack thereof) for Marcellus Shale drilling and impacts of Mountaintop Removal mining with huge sludge impoundments like the one with 2 BILLION gallons of coal waste sludge that sits 400 yards above Marsh Fork Elementary School.

Let's honor the memory of Buffalo Creek by ensuring that similar tragedies never occur again. Based on last year's BP oil spill, and the reluctance of lawmakers to fund increased inspectors for Marcellus Shale drilling, we still have a lot of work to do.

-- Cross posted at WVaBlue.com.

No comments: