Former Coal Mining Family Raises Awareness of Industry’s Impact

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A former Appalachian coal-mining family stopped in Charlottesville Tuesday night to advocate for a cleaner energy future.

The Mullins family history goes back 10 generations in the heart of Appalachia, with four of those generations involved in underground coal mining. The family of four left home three years ago in an effort to break clean and build a better life.

Nick Mullins says a career in mountaintop removal coal mining runs deep in his blood. “My dad went to work in the coal mines, hoping to give me and my brother a better future, and that's why I took a job in the mines,” he said.

But Nick chose to leave his job and the industry after seeing the destruction firsthand.

“We lost our water source. Our family spring turned acidic. We noticed that the creek was turning different colors. We would wake up and it would be completely white with hydraulic fluid that apparently had been spilled on one of the mountaintop removal jobs,” he said.

Mullins, his wife Rustina, and kids Daniel and Alexandria told their story to a crowd in Charlottesville Tuesday night a pit stop on their personal "Breaking Clean Tour.”

“I want the people to walk away from our presentation a little more aware of what's happening at the other end of their light switch whenever they turn the light on, what's happening to the people - not just the land, but the people,” Rustina said.

The Mullins family also believes coal mining has contributed to growing illnesses like cancer in the Appalachian community. They want to find environmental and economic alternatives for the sake of their children.

“It is about family and just like Appalachia is about family and always has been to me. It's about that community and we need to learn about the ways we're impacting our future generations,” Nick said.

The family members started their tour from their home base in Berea, Kentucky. Their plan is to cover 3,800 miles over 13 states in about 45 days.

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