Speak of Inez With Love

2018. Dimensions: 7ft long x 3ft tall Material: Sharpie and Chalk Pastel on Paper.

Martin County Coal Slurry Spill

Shortly after midnight on October 11th, 2000, the bottom of a coal slurry impoundment gave out and flooded into an abandoned underground mine. The slurry come out of the openings to the mine, pouring an estimated 306,000,000 gallons of slurry down on to the town and in the Tug Fork River. The slurry that reached the town rose to the height of 5 ft, covering small homes, roads and fields. By morning both the Wolf Creek Dam and the Coldwater Fork River were overcome with slurry. Due to the high levels of arsenic and mercury, the slurry killed everything in the water, and contaminated the water supply for over 27,000 people. 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill, this spill is considered by the EPA to be the “worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States”.

I didn’t know about this spill until I read Mountain Justice: Homegrown Resistance to Mountaintop Removal, for the Future of Us All. It took me days to get through the 3 pages of descriptions, and I have been haunted by this spill since. I have attempted to create pieces about this disaster, but each time they have turned into experiments in creative grieving, too intimate to want to share. In hopes to break this pattern, I traveled to Inez with no goal but to just touch the land. During that trip, I ended up on the wrong side of the river and due to the fact that every bridge was broken I was soon en route to West Virginia.

For all those who are not familiar with Mountaintop Removal, the land on the border of Eastern Kentucky and Southern West Virginia is the most devastated from this hellish practice, Even now, a year or so later, I struggle to even attempt to describe what it looks like, how it smells and how you feel driving in between oversized coal trucks on the corpses of mountains. The unnatural orange of the “land” is what stuck with me the most. So I created this piece, consumed by memory of a color, in hopes to continue to draw attention to this forgotten area.