Whitesburg KY

Local foundation supports project to clean up acid mine drainage

Eco-Outpost, a Letcher County-based charitable foundation, has granted $5,000 to The Head of Three Rivers Project for operating expenses.

The Head of Three Rivers Project is a watershed group whose purpose is to find ways to clean up acid mine drainage while simultaneously creating economic development opportunities.

Dean and Nina Cornett, Blackey residents who founded Eco-Outpost, said The Head of Three Rivers Project appealed to them because it promotes clean water and economic development, and focuses on the headwaters of the three rivers that start in Letcher County.

“Any attempt at cleaning up the water here deserves everybody’s support,” Dean Cornett said.

Eco-Outpost is a nonprofit organization created to help support groups that Cornett said are “productive, good assets for the community.” The foundation also has provided support for Calvary Campus, the historic Old Indian Bottom Church, The Ben Caudill Camp of Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Eco Village at Berea College.

The Head of Three Rivers Project is a private, not-for-profit member of the Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team, a joint initiative of the federal Office of Surface Mining and Americorps*VISTA created to address environmental and economic challenges caused by mining done before passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. It has not yet received federal nonprofit tax status, but operates with Eastern Kentucky University’s Environmental Research Institute as its fiscal agent.

Sam Adams, an OSM/ VISTA assigned to help the project, said the money from Eco-Outpost will allow the group to continue the work it began two years ago.

“We have two years’ worth of data from stream testing around Letcher County. Our task now is to use that information to clean up the streams and benefit the community,” Adams said. “The gift from Eco-Outpost will allow us to pay some of our normal operating costs while we look for viable ways to fix the pollution problems.”

VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America. It was created in 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. It is the only agency of Americorps dedicated specifically to eradicating poverty in the United States, and is sometimes known as the “domestic Peace Corps.”

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