The Aug. 23 editorial “Extraordinary floods become more ordinary” was right concerning the recent disaster in Louisiana. But there was a flooding disaster in West Virginia in late June. It was the third-deadliest flooding in West Virginia’s history, devastating several counties, taking 23 lives and destroying homes, roads and businesses. This was a human and economic disaster for one of our poorest states.
The immediate cause was, like in Louisiana, a torrential rainstorm likely fueled by a warming planet. However, another source of environmental damage may have played a key role in the West Virginia disaster. Ecological changes resulting from mountaintop-removal strip mining for coal potentially amplified the damage caused by the unusually heavy rains. Bulldozing the top of a mountain removes trees and plants whose root systems hold in rainwater.
The reclamation that coal companies are required to perform after mountaintop removal is inadequate, leaving depleted soil, little regrowth of trees and vegetation and, often, buried natural streams. Mountaintop removal should be stopped immediately, and coal companies, not taxpayers, should be required to fully fund environmentally sound reclamation of mining sites. The rains are likely to continue, but ruinous strip mining that makes floods so much worse should be ended.
Jean Stewart, Washington