Appalachia's Proud History and the ACCT
Appalachian coal country: A proud heritage, a challenging future
Fueling the industrialization of the United States, coal mining supported economic growth for more than a century in Appalachian coal country. The birth of the coal industry built hundreds of new coal-company towns in Appalachia populated by thousands of citizens. Between wealthy coal barons and many hard-working coal miners, these Appalachian communities were proud places with busy beginnings.
The dramatic closure of mines after World War II left many unemployed, creating a depressed economy and a landscape compromised by years of unregulated resource extraction. Mining conducted prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 resulted in untreated flows of acidic, metals-laden water, commonly referred to as acid mine drainage (AMD). AMD results in metal and mineral deposits within streams which can disrupt healthy aquatic life for years after the mine has closed. IN addition to the pollution from AMD, many former coal towns never had adequate sewage infrastructure installed resulting in "straight pipes" that still feed untreated sewage directly from household toilets into creeks.
Nearly 400 volunteer community improvement groups have formed in Appalachian coal country to combat poverty and environmental degradation. The ACCT supplies as many of these sites as possible with skills to build local capacity, promote economic redevelopment, and create environmental stewards in the community. Using a model of community revitalization, the ACCT empowers local volunteers to clearly identify and address unmet needs. The Team works with groups to strengthen their local support and involvement and build lasting partnerships at the local, state and federal levels. The projects OSMRE/VISTAs work on renew civic engagement and natural resource-based economic possibilities, while restoring the rivers and streams impacted by mining.