A Short Memory?


Let’s see…pretty crummy day ahead. Cloudy, windy, cold. Highs will only get to the upper 20’s at best but wind chills will be in the single digits and teens. Also, there will be some flurries flying about. Snow totals overnight and Wednesday will be less than an inch so its not a big deal though wind combined with a few slick spots may make for difficult driving overnight and Wednesday morning. Don’t drive too fast…take my word for it….I’ve got experience driving too fast in wintry conditions. I was just lucky enough to tell you about it.

Did you Forget that on This date in 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed? The above photo is from the ATF files of the incident. Nice hole, huh? I suspect the bad guys got closer to undermining the integrity of the substructure than we were led to believe. No matter, they came back again 8 years later after we forgot about their intentions. While everyone remembers Sept. 11, 2001 and the events of the day I sometimes wonder if we remember enough that we take seriously the possibility that they will come back again, just as they did following their near-miss of February 26, 1993.

On This Date in 1972 a cascade of water funnelled down Buffalo Creek in Logan County, West Virginia. 4000 homes and buildings in 17 towns were washed away and at least 118 people lost their lives. The culprit was a rather ironic foe. The irony lay in that the killer was also the lifeline to many of those who died.

The Buffalo Mining Company was one of a number of companies exploiting West Virginia’s greatest natural asset (aside from its beauty) which is coal. Much of the state’s wealth and economy is based on coal. But a problem with coal mining is what to do with the wastes. If you put them on a mountain, you get landslides and if you put them in a valley, you spoil the creek or river. The great idea of the Buffalo group was to build a dam. Actually, it was a series of three dams. Because of the type of dam they were, they weren’t really regulated much. There really wasn’t much of an engineering study done or anything. The waste from coal mining is inherently unstable and makes for a lousy dam. The first dam gave way, putting pressure on the second dam which failed and the huge amount of water spilling down caused the main dam to collapse.

When you look at the steep terrain of West Virginia, it makes you wonder, “what were they thinking?” It’s one of those things in which it seems so obvious that using unstable material in such an area that a three-year-old could figure it out that it wouldn’t work. To say that its an example of corporate greed is probably a bit over-the-top as I’m sure those with the company didn’t want that to happen. Even if you have cynical view of the corporation, from their fiscal standpoint, it cost them a huge amount of money. However, the company was a subsidiary of the Pittston Mining Company and that company had a history of shabby safety practices. So, it would be fair to say that it appears that the company’s saving money on safety issues was the root cause of the disaster. But, given what it cost them from lawsuits, lost revenues, fines and other costs it seems that a greedy fellow would have prevented that from happening in order that they may keep more of their money. The result was from short sighted, stupid business practices and its a shame that we have to have government watch dogs to force some businesses to do what is not only smart from a corporate standpoint, but the right thing to do from a human perspective and for a business that relies on the efforts of their fellow citizens of the United States of America for their success.

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