Morgantown, W.Va. – As mining companies close and leave Appalachia, water systems in these company towns are often abandoned. Eight water systems in southern West Virginia are “intractable,” meaning the systems are no longer maintained and the water is no longer treated, leaving residents vulnerable. In Garwood (Wyoming County), water comes from an abandoned coal mine.
Inside Appalachia, a program on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, examined the question, “Is water from an abandoned coal mine fit to drink?” Reporter Anne Li asked Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, to comment on water testing results from coal mine water that feeds into Garwood’s derelict water system.
With the limited data provided, according to Ziemkiewicz, the worst containment in the water from 2000 to 2008 was coliform. This bacteria can be a sign of sewage contaminating the water supply. Data from 2008 to 2014 showed no signs of coliform, but because the water is still untreated, Garwood has been on a boil water advisory since 2015.
Hear more details on Inside Appalachia’s: “Coal’s Legacy in Appalachia: As Mining Companies Close, Water Systems Fail.” “Mine water as a drinking source” segment starts at 36.05. Ziemkiewicz’s comments at 37:01.