Skip to content
Grist home
Support nonprofit news

Articles by Matt Wasson

Matt Wasson is an ecologist and the director of programs for Appalachian Voices where he oversees the award-winning online campaign to stop mountaintop-removal coal mining on

Featured Article

It took a few days after a state of emergency was declared across nine West Virginia counties and one-sixth of the state’s population was told not to drink or bathe using their tap water for the national news media to discover there is a story of national importance occurring in the political backwaters of Appalachia.

But most haven’t yet picked up on what may be the most interesting and important part of the story: why so many people in this water-rich state depend on a single, privately owned treatment system and distribution network that sprawls across nine counties for their drinking water.

In many communities, the story of coal industry activities polluting people’s drinking water supply is anything but new. Places like Prenter in Boone County have seen a lot worse.

The story of waste from coal preparation plants polluting well water in Prenter was the centerpiece of a blockbuster story published by the New York Times in 2009 that described the systemic failures of states like West Virginia to enforce the federal Clean Water Act. Here’s the lead from that story:

Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her ... Read more

All Articles

  • WATCH: Appalachian Kids Give Science Lesson to President Obama

    Children in Appalachian coal mining communities are 42% more likely to be born with birth defects and have a life expectancy that is almost 5 years lower than the national average. As this short video shows, they understand why: [youtube] Dozens of scientific studies have linked mountaintop removal coal mining to high rates of […]

  • Electoral math for ‘all you climate people’

    Building a climate movement in urban areas isn't enough. We also need a ground game in the remote corners of swing states where national elections are won and lost.

  • WATCH: Happy Birthday Clean Water Act!

    [youtube] On October 18th, 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed by Congress on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Now, forty years later, our rivers, lakes and bays are in far better condition and nobody is yearning for the days when the Cuyahoga River repeatedly caught on fire and Lake Erie was pronounced “dead.” Yet, […]

  • Big Coal Wins Latest Battle to Blast Historic Blair Mountain

    Is nothing sacred to coal companies in Appalachia? In a jaw-dropping display of contempt and disregard for the communities and landscapes where they mine coal, three coal companies back in 2009 challenged the listing of West Virginia’s Blair Mountain on the National Register of Historic Places. The companies, including mining behemoths Alpha Natural Resources and […]