Kentuckians Rally for the Rivers
On June 25, Sierra Club members across Kentucky rallied in support of the state's waterways with eleven "Rally for the Rivers" events around the state. The Club's Cumberland Chapter, local Sierra Club groups, and national staff collaborated with local allies and volunteer leaders in a statewide public event calling on Governor Steven Beshear to "step it up" on Clean Water Act enforcement.
Rally for the Rivers comes in response to the Beshear administration's attempts to weaken EPA authority, and its lax enforcement of clean water laws. Events were held in Paducah, Owensboro, Louisville, Athens/Winchester, Lexington, Shakertown, Elkhorn Creek, Pikeville, Bardstown, a rural location in northern Kentucky, and in Mammoth Cave National Park.
"Kentuckians want the Beshear administration and the Kentucky Division of Water to strongly enforce the Clean Water Act to clean up coal pollution in our rivers and streams," says Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign organizer Lauren McGrath, who helped coordinate the Louisville event. "Citizens from around the state came out with some really awesome homemade signs to show their support."
McGrath gives shout-outs to fellow organizers Aloma Dew and Tom Pearce for coordinating the Owensboro and Paducah rallies, and to super-volunteer Lane Boldman, who holds an even dozen leadership positions with the chapter, the Bluegrass Group, and the national Sierra Club, for doing "a ton of pre-event work."
"Each rally location had its local flavor—canoe floats, bluegrass music, kids' activities—but they all had a common theme," says Scott Dye, Director of the Club's Water Sentinels Program. "Kentuckians from across the state sent a message to Governor Beshear that he should be prioritizing clean water and healthy communities over the coal industry." That's Stephanie Rommel and Brad Smith of the Club's Pennyrile Group, below.
"We all pay a price from coal pollution that could be minimized if the Kentucky Division of Water stepped up to support the Clean Water Act," says Great Rivers Group member Ben Killmon, who helped organize the event in downtown Paducah. "Kentuckians deserve better!"
In Winchester, members of the Bluegrass Group drew attention to mercury and other toxic pollution being emitted by a nearby coal-fired power plant, as well as water pollution from mines and coal ash dumps that endangers aquatic life and threatens drinking water and recreational opportunities on the Kentucky River. "We just want the administration to enforce the laws the help clean up the river, which is dying," says activist Billy Edwards.
Aloma & Lee Dew coordinated the activities in Owensboro, on the Ohio River in western Kentucky. "It was a great day," says Aloma. "We trained five new water testers and retrained four more. Michele Morek and Lee did the training and were assisted by Peyton Adams and Dale Reynolds." That's Morek, below at left in blue shirt, with Lee Dew seated at far left.
Linda Fowler was in charge of kids' activities, assisted by Donna Hanley, Sara Goodall, and Cheryl Bersaglia. Cumberland Chapter volunteer dynamo Chair Betsy Bennett came down from Louisville to help out, and Pennyrile Group Chair Ben Taylor pitched in as well.
Bluegrass band Plowin' Todd Cowan and the Sodbusters, below, played during children's activities and drew a sizable audience, and Cheryl Bersaglia, Michele Morek, and Lee Dew spoke before a crowd of 50 or so people.
"Many of the usual suspects were in attendance," says Aloma, "but lots of new people were there, too. A couple dozen signed our mercury postcards to the Division of Water, and quite a few joined our lineup along the railing with the Ohio River in the background and said they wanted to join Sierra Club."
That's Kenny Lin, below left, doing a water-testing demonstration; at right, new volunteer Water Sentinel Jimmy Kamuf and longtime Sentinels activist Donna Hanley.
Minutes after the speakers finished and before the band could close out with more music, the heavens opened with a downpour. "Lee and I took down the banners and were literally soaked to the skin," says Aloma. Talk about water!"