Over 100 people, primarily Appalachia residents, took action today at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., calling for the EPA to use its powers to end mountaintop removal.

15 people, including a couple of youth no older than 10, risked arrest by sitting in front of a main entrance to EPA. They sat next to about 75 one-gallon containers of dirty and toxic water brought to DC by Appalachian residents, the kind of water produced by mountaintop removal operations.

Appalachia Rising, the coalition of groups which organized the action, demanded that the EPA “sign for our delivery” of the water “and acknowledge the fact that Appalachian people are being exposed to toxic drinking water every day.

“Water contamination from surface mining is widespread throughout the Appalachian region, and more than 20 peer-reviewed studies have shown devastating health impacts. Citizens near mountaintop removal sites are 50% more likely to die of cancer and 42% more likely to be born with birth defects compared with other people in Appalachia.”

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For two hours the sit-in went on, supported by the other demonstrators, most of whom stayed. People sang and chanted and several spoke as the time went by. They chanted, “EPA, Do Your Job,” and “Clean water is what we need, and EPA has got the key.” They sang Which Side Are You On, Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed on Clean Water, Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around and others. One of the speakers, Kathryn Hilton, from the Mountain Watershed Association in western Pennsylvania, spoke about the connections between mountaintop removal and fracking for shale gas.

Finally, Nancy Stoner, head of the Water Division at EPA, did come down, was read a short declaration of why we were there by Kentuckian Teri Blanton, briefly acknowledged receiving hundreds of pages of documentation of this issue earlier in the week and said she would be looking into it.

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It was an effective and well-organized action. Without question Appalachia Rising will be following up on it. To find out more and learn what you can do, go to http://appalachiarising.org.