Not "Having Fun" In Bokoshe, OK
Last week, coal ash coverage went national with a fine segment on ABC World News that told the story of residents in Bokoshe, OK, a small town with a very big coal ash problem. Only 450 folks live in Bokoshe, but as reporter Jim Sciutto discovered, many of them either have cancer or know someone who does.
One of the residents of Bokoshe who was featured in the ABC story was kind enough to take a few moments to tell unEarthed about her experiences living near this toxic coal ash dump. As I wrote last week, the dump owner, a company called “Making Money Having Fun” is dumping nearly 80 truckloads of coal ash into an open pit every day. Bokoshe resident Susan Holmes—who lost both her sister and her mom to cancer—had this to say:
I applaud ABC News for taking the time to report our story here in Bokoshe. Small rural towns across the nation are considered inconsequential. We have become throwaway towns with throwaway people. The one comment made during our interviews that was not in the televised segment was that this is happening to small towns all over America, and our story is not unique. We were just blessed they chose us to interview.
At 81 years old, my mom insisted I contact ABC. I first wrote ABC over two years ago asking for an investigation. Did they come because of me? Probably not; it takes bigger and more important people to ask for them to get involved. I am just glad they listened. Those of us in Bokoshe are not stopping. We have a new pit that opened 5 miles west of town. For those that don’t know, my sister died of lung cancer in 2004 and my mom died of cancer New Year's Day this year. She knew before she died ABC News was coming. She just didn’t get to stay long enough to see it.
The EPA is now considering the first ever federal safeguards against toxic coal ash. In their two-option proposal, one plan would regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, ensuring liners on coal ash dumps, water quality monitoring, dust controls and a host of other safety standards that will protect small towns like Bokoshe from the coal ash threat. The second option, favored by the power companies that generate coal ash and the dump sites that dispose of it, would do little to change the current approach of unregulated and unprotected coal ash dumps.
Stories like Susan’s are far too common in the small towns that are home to these coal ash dump sites. The EPA must do the right thing for these communities and regulate coal ash as hazardous waste.