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Public Health & Coal Slurry Audio
The audio clips in this green box are also within the main text body to the left.
Maria Lambert on Water Quality
Black Waters, performed by Becky and Joe
Black Waters by Becky and Joe.

Public Health & Coal Slurry


Mommy woudnt let us get in the water."Mommy wouldn't let us get in the mother decided on her own...don't let the kids in the creek, don't drink the water, the water don't smell right there's something not right about this" -- Maria Lambert, resident of Prenter


Health Impacts
Prenter residents suffer from a variety of illnesses on a daily basis. Community members have reported a number of health concerns including nausea, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, liver and kidney damage, shortness of breath, shock and convulsions, nerve damage, failure of the liver, kidney, or spleen, bone damage and cancers - particularly those of the digestive system. Many of these health conditions are known effects of heavy metals and toxins found in Prenter’s drinking water. A chart of select chemicals found in slurry and known health impacts is available at the bottom of the page. On a larger scale, Dr. Hendryx explored the relationship between negative health impacts and coal production in West Virginia in two important studies.
A 2008 study by Michael Hendryx, PhD, and Melissa M. Ahern, PhD titled "Relations Between Health Indicators and Residential Proximity to Coal Mining in West Virginia", looked into the community health impacts of the Appalachian coal mining industry.  Through analysis of existing surveys, county-level coal production and other variables, the study looked into the relations between health indicators and residential proximity to coal mining. Hendryx found that high levels of coal production were associated with worse adjusted health status and with higher rates of cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, lung disease, and kidney disease, which corresponds with the accounts of community members.
Dr. Hendryx also looked at the health impacts of the "Appalachian coal mining industry through an examination of mortality rates". The study looked at mortality rates in Appalachian coal mining areas to see if there was a correlation between increased mortality rates and coal mining. The study discovered that heavy coal mining counties in Appalachia had significantly higher age-adjusted mortality in comparison to other Appalachian counties and other areas of the country. After adjustment for all covariates, including smoking, poverty, education and rural-urban setting, Appalachian coal mining areas had 1,607 excess annual deaths over a five-year period compared to other counties. Hendryx found that the mortality rate achieved by coal mining areas is equal to the nationwide mortality rate 24 years ago!
Health Survey
In the spring of 2008 a health survey was conduced in the affected communities; 53 of which were returned. The survey reported that:
  • 18.8% of the people report having Fibromyalgia , extreme muscular and joint pain.
  • 22.6% of the people report Kidney Disease/problems.
  • 33.3% of the people report having Gastrointestinal problems
  • 20.8% of the people report Urinary Tract Infections
  • 37.7% of the people report recent Neurological Changes, which include three or more of the following: Lethargy or dullness, restlessness, irritability, muscle tremors, vomiting, loss of appetite, dizziness, loss of memory and or vision problems.
  • 18.8% of the people report having Gall Bladder Disease. Following this survey, a Registered Nurse conducted health evaluations with 60 residents that have reported Gall Bladder disease in the subject community. Another survey along the main road in Prenter found 98 out of 100 residents surveyed have had their gall bladders removed.
  •  9.4% of the people report having Thyroid Cancer.
  • 20.8% of the people report having extreme Diarrhea.

    In the next year an updated survey will be conducted of the whole Prenter area. Please continue to check for updates.
Residents Accounts
Symptoms “in our small community…are general stomachaches, to colon cancers, Urinary Track Infection (UTI). Some have stopped their little girls from having a bath because they were getting symptoms of having UTI problems as young as 18 months, and as soon as they stopped with baths or took them elsewhere to bathe the UTI problems stopped.” -Maria Lambert

"Two people have had kidneys replaced, not even 3 miles from each other." – Maria Lambert
“My youngest son, he’s 21 now, when he was five as soon as his teeth would come in they would get soft and kind of like just dissolve and he had to have over $2500 of dental work done, caps put on, either that or he would have had no teeth till he was 7 or 8 years old. And now I found out last summer that my well had manganese. I didn’t know what manganese was but I’ve read a little bit on it and it’s a metal, an ore, and it dissolves the enamel of your teeth.” -Patty Sebok
“Everyday there’s another person comes up with cancer, dimension, kidney failure, just all these different problems, pituitary glands, thyroid problems, brain tumors, it just goes on and on and on.” -Patty Sebok

“I started to talk to other people in the community and that’s when I found out how sick the rest of the community is. And there’s three different little communities within a 3.5 mile stretch; Sandlick, Hopkins Folk and Laurel Creek. And there’s a stretch that everyone has lost their gallbladders, there’s a stretch were everyone has brain tumors, cancers are pretty much rampant; so we are just now starting to find out these things and these health conditions.” -Patty Sebok
“My husband has chronic kidney disease, hes already on stage three damage, at stage five he’ll have to have dialysis.” -Patty Sebok
“The most vulnerable people are the elderly that are sick and then the kids that are sick and then you have the rest of us that are in the middle either trying to take care of the elderly or child. So basically, almost everyone in the community is sick.  It can be to a different degree, but everyone has something wrong with them and when you go outside the coal fields, it’s a much higher rate here then it is outside the coalfields.” -Patty Sebok
Potential Health Effects of Water Contaminants
The contaminants listed below have been found to exceed drinking water standards in coal slurry and/or in homes close to coal slurry storage. While it is not a complete list of contaminants and possible health impacts, the list serves to clarify certain connections between health impacts and coal slurry contamination.
Possible Health Effects**
EPA Drinking Water Standard (mg/L)
Irritation of skin, eyes, nose and upper respiratory tract. Loss of feeling in limbs, drop in blood pressure, damage to liver, kidneys, and lungs. Inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Skin or tooth discoloration.*
0.05 to .20
Cancer (liver, bladder, lung, kidney, and skin).
Skin Damage, problems with circulatory systems, increased risk of cancer.*
Respiratory paralysis, muscle twitching or paralysis, may effect pacemaker or the heart muscle.
Increase in Blood Pressure.*
Lung tumors and lesions, weight loss.
Intestinal lesions.*
Causes cancer, anemia, discoloration of teeth, & bone changes.
Kidney Damage.*
Irritation to nasal cavity and upper respiratory tract, some compounds may cause cancer.
Skin problems.*
Irritation of upper respiratory tract, corneal ulcers and skin irritation, green hair.
Short term: Gastrointestinal distress. Long term exposure: liver or kidney damage.*
Decreased blood pressure, bloody diarrhea or coma, vomiting, mild lethargy.
May cause cancer. Lethargy, autoimmunity, problems with joints, kidneys, and nervous system. Infertility and birth defects
Children: delays in physical or mental development, deficits in attention span and learning ability
Adults: Kidney problems, high blood pressure.*
Loss of controlled movement; weakness, stiff muscles, and trembling hands, hallucinations, forgetfulness and nerve damage, Parkinson, lung embolism and bronchitis.
Hair loss, deformed nails; rashes and redness in skin; numbness in arms or legs.
Fingernail loss; numb fingers or toes, circulatory problems*
Could interfere with blood pressure medication
Sulfuric Acid
Acid Mine Drainage
Corrosive and irritating to skin, eyes, and respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts
Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, anemia, damage to the pancreas, and decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Secondary 5
 **Health information in this column is from: Hazardous Substances Databank of the National Library of Medicine online at, Unless otherwise noted by (*).
*Health information from: United States Environmental Protection Agency. Office of Water.  June 2003.  Poster: National Primary Drinking Water Standards
i Secondary and Tertiary drinking water standards are not enforceable under federal EPA. For tertiary standards, the known effects are limited or occur over a long period of time (lifetime advisory); therefore, the federal government does not state quantifiable limits of intake.