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Beverly Braverman: Mom takes pro-water stand

Thursday, June 08, 2000

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Beverly Braverman is, by her own admission, not your traditional mother. She's not even your traditional environmental activist.

  Beverly Braverman, Executive Director of the Mountain Watershed Association, Millcroft, PA. (V.W.H. Campbell Jr, Post-Gazette)

The executive director of the Mountain Watershed Association is an attorney, a teacher of Isshinryu karate and a fifth-degree black belt, who is in the market for a new motorcycle. Last year, she sported a royal blue streak through her long wavy black hair.

But the 49-year-old resident of Saltlick, Fayette County, stayed home after her two children were born, and has translated those traditional motherly concerns about the future of her children into an environmental activism that has grown along with her girl and boy.

"My major concern is that the public drinking water is going to run out, and that there is enough healthy habitat for humans and animals," she said. "I don't really think of that as a women's environmental issue, but women are more sensitive to the things that affect their children and their health."

She always enjoyed the outdoors, but her environmental awareness got a kick-start in 1986 when a neighbor called and said someone wanted to build a landfill nearby.

"I said, 'So what?' Then I read a report that said municipal landfills generate as much toxic leachate as toxic landfills, and this one was proposed for land over our abandoned deep mine voids," Braverman said. "And that meant that the landfill runoff would have ended up in Indian Creek and our public water supply."

Braverman opposed the landfill and continues to do battle for what's left of the Indian Creek watershed, a drainage marked by 45 abandoned strip mines, 115 mine discharges containing high levels of iron, manganese and aluminum, an active strip mine, a quarry and a remining operation.

In 1994, she and nine neighbors formed the Mountain Watershed Association when they heard about a new proposal for a deep mine that a mining consultant said would have added 3,000 acres of mine drainage to the watershed's existing water quality problems.

"I think we need to talk about the cumulative impacts," Braverman said. "More than 50 percent of this watershed has been affected by mining. We have water that children shouldn't be playing in, shouldn't be swimming in and that they definitely shouldn't be drinking."

The mining hasn't made the residents rich. The per capita income in Saltlick is $9,500; in adjacent Springfield, it's $7,000.

"I can see a causal relationship," she said. "When the mines stopped, people were no longer employed. Now we're captives to the resource, unduly burdened by the fact that we have coal in the community."

Braverman said the Mountain Watershed Association isn't anti-mining, but pro-water.

"More than 50 percent of our activities are educational," Braverman said. "Our aim is to empower our community so it can make good choices about what to do with our land and water."

Given the scars on the land and the pollution in the water, that's not traditional either.

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