On Sept. 23, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a $1 million grant that will benefit workers in Logan, Boone and Mingo counties who have been impacted by the decline in the coal industry.
A ceremonial check was awarded to the Human Resource Development Foundation (HRDF) at a ceremony at the Ralph R. Willis Career and Technical Center near Logan. The grant will fund an HRDF project that will employ workers in all three counties to clean trash and debris from the Guyandotte River and several tributaries. The one-year grant will also cover the costs of proper disposal of the collected materials.
“This project will provide West Virginians with the job opportunities that are badly needed in this region, which has been acutely impacted by the downturn in the coal industry. At the same time, we’re giving people the chance to help clean up and strengthen their communities,” said Tomblin. “Keeping our landscape clean and beautiful not only helps preserve our environment and protect public health, but it also attracts tourists and boosts our economy. This truly is a win-win for Southern West Virginia.”
The grant money comes from a DEP fund into which solid waste assessment fees are deposited. Under the Solid Waste Management Act, a portion of these fees can be used, at the DEP secretary’s discretion, for the “purposes of reclamation, cleanup and remedial actions intended to minimize or mitigate damage to the environment, natural resources, public water supplies, water resources and the public health, safety and welfare which may result from open dumps or solid waste not disposed of in a proper or lawful manner.”
Upon hearing of the HRDF’s goal to hire workers to clean up the Guyandotte River Watershed, DEP Cabinet Secretary Randy Huffman and his staff “realized we had an opportunity to partner with a very worthwhile organization that does a lot of good for the environment, area communities and the state as a whole,” Huffman said.
“Our mission at the DEP is ‘promoting a healthy environment,’” Huffman said, “but we can’t do it alone. Without the efforts of volunteers and paid workers like those with organizations such as the HRDF, we wouldn’t be able to preserve our water, air and land for generations to come.”
The grant will be paid in four installments, with the first payment being released Oct. 1, 2016.