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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about the Pittson Coal Mine flood of 1972.


CURWOOD: This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the worst floods in US history, and some say it didn't have to happen at all. For years the Buffalo Mining Company, a subsidiary of Pittston Coal, had dumped coalmine sludge across a stream near the town of Man, West Virginia. Eventually the mine refuse formed a dam, but despite local protests the coal mining company refused to clean it up. Then on Friday, February 26th, 1972, four inches of rain quickly fell in the area. An estimated 135 million gallons of water, coal, and mud backed up behind the sludge dam. The following morning the mine tailings gave way, sending a great wave down the 18-mile-long Appalachian valley. A hundred and twenty five people were killed and thousands injured. More than 600 people sued Pittston. The coal giant settled for 13-and-a-half million dollars. The money did not go far to console the survivors, including Tammy Osborn, who lost 11 family members in the flood. The company, she said, should have warned people. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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