Desperate: An Epic Battle for Clean Water and Justice in Appalachia

Kris Maher. Scribner, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8734-6
Wall Street Journal reporter Maher debuts with a comprehensive account of the seven-year legal battle waged by residents of southern West Virginia against the state’s largest coal company, Massey Energy. At the center of the story is attorney Kevin Thompson, who took on the case in 2004. Since the 1980s, the well water in Rawl, W.Va., and nearby communities had regularly run black, and townspeople had suffered “high incidences” of cancer, kidney failure, and Alzheimer’s disease. Thompson set out to prove that a local coal preparation plant’s impoundment—a reservoir created to store coal slurry—was not only leaking into the groundwater but that before it had been built, the plant had illegally injected hundreds of millions of gallons of slurry into abandoned mines. Maher documents Massey’s long history of defying environmental and safety regulations, noting that from 1995 to 2006 company mines had nearly 2,000 injuries and 24 deaths. (In 2010, an explosion in Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine killed 29 miners.) Though reading about the flurry of legal filings grows tedious at times, details of Thompson’s financial and marriage troubles make his battle to secure a $35 million settlement for his clients seem all the more heroic. Readers will be appalled at how hard these communities had to fight for a modicum of justice. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 07/02/2021
Release date: 09/01/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-7971-3262-4
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-7971-3260-0
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