Numbers don't lie. That's why activists armed with digital water quality detectors are gathering along the streams of Utah, where Big Coal's top priority is right next door to majestic Bryce Canyon National Park.
With an assist from the Sierra Club's Resilient Habitats program and the Water Sentinels, dozens of new volunteers have been trained to monitor nearby waterways, collect samples, and use the data to expose the coal industry. Data that come in from a Salt Lake City lab will comprise a clickable online map using GIS software.
"The lab tests for a variety of heavy metals -– arsenic, mercury contamination, and other serious toxins," says Tim Wagner, who works for the Resilient Habitats program in Utah. One result has already detected a conductivity reading of 1600+. "Normal range is somewhere around 50 to 100. Obviously something's going on here."
There's been a recent upswing of Big Coal activity in the state, with the current battle taking place on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management near Bryce Canyon and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Collected data will give activists a leg up on coal companies.
"This will give local volunteers the necessary tools they'd need to counter some of the public relations spin that comes from mining proponents," Tim Wagner says.
Water Sentinels Deputy Director Tim Guilfoile was on hand to train and equip Utah volunteers in water quality testing. "It was an amazing weekend," says Utah Chapter Chair Marion Klaus. "The group was dynamic, motivated and interested, and we had excellent participation from folks in the small town of Kanab, Moab, and Salt Lake City. It was an amazing shot in the arm to the local folks to have Tim and the Sierra Club come help them battle Alton Coal."
"The Utah volunteers were among the most motivated and committed I've seen and they came from throughout the state," Guilfoile says. "The intrusion of the coal industry into valleys below Bryce Canyon National Park and the Grand Staircase Escalante-National Monument represents a deep disregard for the American people and our national treasures. This fight is a Beyond Coal issue, a Resilient Habitats issue, a Water Sentinels issue and a threat to the health and economic well being of the communities in the region. The collaboration of these three Climate Recovery Campaigns with the people of Utah is a model for future activism."