The Buffalo Creek Tragedy

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Date added: 17-06-26

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Topic: Buffalo Creek Paper In February of 1972, there was a collapse of a coal waste impoundment dam that was situated along the Buffalo Creek in Logan County of West Virginia. The flood that resulted killed one hundred and twenty-five people and caused damage of over fifty million dollars. The disaster to date continues to be one of the most deadly while at the same time preventable mining catastrophe. Following the Buffalo Creek dam collapse, three investigative commissions were established. The investigations revealed that Pittston Coal Company, who was the owners of the Buffalo Creek improperly, constructed the dam that collapsed i.e. dam No. 3. They wilfully disregarded the safety concerns of the dam and two others. It was also revealed that the West Virginia regulations, inspection policies, as well as, penalties for those who violated the mining safety codes contributed to the catastrophe. While the management, Pittston Coal, avoided criminal charges against them, three lawsuits filed by the survivors were successful. (Nugent 35) Evidently, what happened at Buffalo Creek was not the right act of a capricious God. It was the human hand that killed the people. Notably, the more things changed in Buffalo Creek, the more they also stayed the same. Investigators have concluded that the third dam on the Middle Fork was established of an old age practice of disposing of waste materials. It was also constructed without using the due technology and without the consultation of professionals qualified in designing and building such a massive structure. They failed to find a conclusive answer that the incident was an act of God. Fifth, a reaction from the commission of enquiry showed that the officials of the Pittston Company disregarded the safety of Buffalo Creek residents and the people who lived around the coal refuse impoundments. The Buffalo Creek tragedy led to the development of more stringent mine safety regulations. From the book, West Virginia legislatures and the Congress passed new rules that regulated the construction and maintenance of the dam. It notes that the entire blame was put on the Pittston Company. They had the knowledge of what could transpire in the case that a flood occurred. All its managers at whatever level had completely ignored the recommendations that had been passed to them. They were simply not doing their job. They had ignored the recommendations that were submitted to them by those who had vast knowledge in the field. There were no engineering constructions that were made when the third dam was under construction. That was a blatant disregard of the law From a personal assessment, the outcome of the case was a bittersweet victory. The cash received by the victims of the tragedy was more than what they had witnessed in their lives. 13.5 million dollars was much less than the 32.5 million dollars they had originally proposed settling their claim, but it was, however, larger than the three million dollars Pittston had proposed. Huge compensation would serve Pittston justice since it had a financial implication on its operation. As a result of the case, immense lessons were learnt from the happenings at Buffalo Creek. Coal mines today are no longer part used because of the attention that was brought by the mining practice at Buffalo Creek. The outcome of the case is thus laudable. It has made the corporate culture of most mining companies to change drastically. They now take into consideration their stake-holder's safety with high regards because they would be held accountable for the damages they cause. The outcome of the case also showed the importance of working in large law firms. It is explained by the fact that, without them, the efforts would be futile. Though the case was opened to media attention and scrutiny, its significance was felt. It promoted its publicity owing to the limitation that was put on the case that came afterwards. (Nugent 31) In the book, ethical perspectives can be seen. Starting as of is the manner in which the management of Pittston was quick to dismiss the tragedy as an act of God. It was completely unethical of the company since the accident was responsible for the mass deaths that were experienced in the area. The practise sparked off rage and fury amongst the Buffalo community. The step by the company was in a bid to absolve the company from payment of the huge amounts of funds to the victims and also the legal responsibilities that would come with it. Even when the company was opened to the community of Buffalo Creek, it still did not accept responsibility for the flood. It showed clearly that the case had not reached an advanced stage that warranted payment to the victims. The above scenario raises an ethical question of Pittston. Be here a code of ethics that the company followed so as to guide its everyday operations? (Nugent 45) Gerald Stern, the attorney, also puts forward issues of ethics as he handles the case. It had been the most persuasive case that he had worked on. Since it was his most rewarding case, his passion as he deals with the case can be widely seen. He dutifully represents the people who were pleased enough to have survived without having anything left. Thanks to his high ethical values, he goes against the Buffalo Mining Company so as to support the victims of the flood. It brings him out as a prosecutor who wants justice for all members of the society. Stern’s desire for justice makes him to be personally involved in the cases he undertakes even though he knows that lawyers should not do that. The personal interest he had in the case drove him harder on the defensive. He had the view that someone must be held responsible for the tragedy that occurred. It serves only to give a background of the code of ethics that he followed in his professionalism. However, one would argue that he exorbitantly charged his clients the lawful fees. He remained with a huge chunk of the amount that was given to the victims. (Gleser, Green and Winget 65) Another ethical perspective can be viewed in terms of Buffalo Mining Company negligence on its environment and the infrastructure laws that it never complied with. Coal mine safety and security bill were enacted into law in 1969. The law outlawed the construction of coal refuse dams. The mining company, however, went against the law to construct the Buffalo Creek dam. In compliance with the law, the mining company have to stopped the dumping of coal refuse into the dam. Commissions that were formed also stated that the dam had not been built to the required engineering standards. All the above brings the question of ethics in the Buffalo Mining Company. It was tantamount to follow strictly the regulations that had been pre-set for the construction of the dam. (Stern 12). Through the incident, I would say that the law came to life as it was rightfully served to the members of the Buffalo Creek community. It provides an insight into crime and correctional perspective. The case presented a good consideration suitable for the victims of the floods. It has got me a reason for settlements as an option over jail terms. However, settling the matter out of the court system would have become a better option than the litigation process the case went through. It is because the citizen’s commission was at a disadvantage since it had lost key witnesses to the suit. In spite of this, the story reaffirmed my belief in the legal system. The remedy to the victims of the floods serves as a good starting point for legal representation. The verdict that the federal court system gave was appropriate since there had been perceived corruption in the state judicial system. It has eliminated the initial fear that I had of the courts being controlled by the privileged in the society such as the governor. In such a case, the courts would be supervised by the Governor, who would have an influence on the judges’ appointees. In the case, incidences of bribery, corruption and obstruction of justice were not experienced. My view of the judicial system has, therefore, been positively revamped as justice was dutifully meted out. (Stern 32). One would quickly note the good job that was done by attorney for Stern. I would advise him that Pittston also needed to take place accountable for their actions. The compensation that was paid to the victims was not enough. An entire community of Buffalo Creek lay in ruin due to the neglect of Pittston. It would have done it fine if Stern had advocated for the withdrawal of their licence. It would caution other companies in the mining sector. As an addition of salt into injury, no indictments were produced against Pittston. A jury that looked into the charges that were levelled against the company failed to remit any definite charge against the company. Stern, the attorney, would have followed and ensured that every party to the case was given justice. All in all, Stern did a commendable job in establishing that the defendant was reckless in his actions. Anybody who would find himself in a similar situation would be advisable to follow suit in attorney stern’s footsteps. His strong desire for justice for the affected victims is something extra lawyers can employ in their daily duties in the judicial system. (Gleser, Green and Winget 21) In conclusion, it was said that an avoidable tragedy took the lives of several people and also destroyed property. The society wipes away could have influenced the town of Buffalo Creek for prosperity. If only the mining company had learnt a lesson from preceding incidences such as the Aberfan that happened in 1972, the day would have proceeded just like any other bright and joyful Saturday. The case is expected to be taken with utmost concern. Similar mining companies should learn from the occurrences and take precautions as regards the accident. Strict legislations should also be set up to control the mining. Lobbying by state corporations should also be illegalise. The measures above would ensure that a similar accident at the Buffalo Creek does not occur. Works cited Glaser, Goldine C, Bonnie L Green, and Carolyn N Winget. Prolonged Psychosocial Effects Of Disaster. New York: Academic Press, 1981. Print. Urgent, Tom. Death at Buffalo Creek. New York: Norton, 1973. Print. Stern, Gerald M. The Buffalo Creek Disaster. New York: Vintage Books, 1977. Print.
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