Contributed by Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network
The dense grey fog permeated the frigid October morning around Spanish Needle Creek. No longer do deer, wild turkeys, or foxes drink from the clear, babbling brook. And the days of children splashing in the water and gleefully fishing are long gone.
In past years, the Extractors systemically destroyed everything that stood in their path while working day and night to exhume what they thought was black gold out of the ground, calling the site Monterey Mine 1. They only wanted the pure black coal to sell for a profit, but their rough, greedy and careless work brought up much more, like releasing angry spirits that can never be subdued again. They brought millions of tons of course gob and tried with all their might to wash the impurities from the coal, but only created filthy polluted sludge.
The Extractors dumped it on Spanish Needle Creek, perhaps with hopes that something so fresh, clear and clean could cleanse the evil they had exposed. A life sentence was imposed then on Spanish Needle Creek and all that relied upon its life forces. Today, millions of tons of toxic coal slurry sit at the headwaters, impounded precariously behind walls of piled rock. If these walls were to fail, Lake Carlinville, the drinking water supply for thousands, will forever be poisoned and miles of farmland, homes and wilderness will be buried.
If you dare, there is an even more sinister twist to this tale. The Extractors got out of the coal business after getting caught nearly eternally poisoning the drinking water supply at their other mine, Monterey Mine 2, near Germantown and Albers and didn’t want to wait around to see what their maniacal work might unleash at the Monterey Mine 1. Enter the next wave of villains, the Desecrators, who wanted their opportunity to extract wealth from the mine. By this time, it was clear that the piles of coal waste were degrading and releasing their pollutants such as salts and heavy metals into the underlying water. Buried for life and now seeping pollution was more than the groundwater source and stream could bear. Cattle downstream were getting sick, wildlife were walking further and further from their drinking holes and families started moving away and warning their children not to go into the water. After some smoke and mirrors to the residents and regulators, the desecrators thought the problem would go away and that they could escape the Coal Curse. But state regulators at the Illinois EPA issued a violation notice for the groundwater pollution and have now referred the case to the Illinois Attorney General. Residents and clean water advocates alike are working for justice in this case, challenging the permit continuing use of these looming, seeping toxic pits that continue to poison and threaten downstream and area residents. Perhaps an exorcism of the evil that the extractors and desecrators unearthed is in order…